Silent-film star Wallace Reid is (like Roscoe Arbuckle) unfairly remembered for a scandal which didn't accurately reflect his true life or career. Because Reid usually played clean-cut go-getters on screen, his fans were shocked when his early death revealed the effects of long-term morphine abuse. This was actually the fault of front-office executives at Reid's home studio: when Reid was severely injured in a railway accident en route to a filming location, his producers forced him to keep working under heavy medication so that the production schedule would not be affected. After getting Reid addicted to morphia, his bosses did nothing to wean him from the addiction. When the cause of Reid's early death became public knowledge, his studio protected its own image by circulating rumours that Reid had led a double life as a secret drug addict. To this day, when Reid is remembered at all, it's usually in the (inaccurate) context of a drug fiend with a double life. His box-office success, and his very enjoyable action comedies, are almost entirely forgotten.
The opening credits for 'Believe Me, Xantippe' state that this film is based on a play. I would have guessed as much, because this silent film is largely talk, talk, talk ... conveyed by many, many intertitles with LOTS of dialogue. The dialogue is meant to be funny, but too much of it is in that peppy Jazz Age slang which dates very badly. ('Hot-cha!')
In a departure from his usual role, Wallace Reid plays a criminal here: specifically, George MacFarland, alias MacGinnis. Whatever his name is, he's a forger from New York City who has fled to the wide open spaces of the wild West, one jump ahead of a detective named Thorne (in his side?). MacFarland wants to lie low for a while, and maybe print some counterfeit bonds.
In Colorado, MacFarland runs afoul of sheriff Buck Kamman, who always gets his man. MacFarland also meets the local sheriff's pretty daughter, who's no slouch in the manhunter department: she soon lassoes MacFarland, in a figurative sense. Then along comes the sheriff's sister Violette, who lassoes MacFarland in the literal sense and leaves him hog-tied. (I can't believe that a man named Buck would have a sister named Violette.)
The plot of this movie is implausible, which would be fine if it were funny... but it's only fitfully amusing. I laughed during the sequence in the county gaol, when the camera cut to a close-up shot of a sampler reading 'God Bless Our Home'. James Cruze, better known as a director, gives a deft performance here as the dim-witted deputy in charge of the gaol where MacFarland is temporarily locked up.
This film is directed by Donald Crisp, much better known as a character actor. Crisp showed real talent as an actor (and, offscreen, as a financial manager) but his direction is not especially crisp: not here, nor elsewhere. Crisp's most famous directing job is 'The Navigator' (in which he did a very imaginative Hitchcock-like cameo), but I suspect that the success of that film is largely down to Crisp's co-director Buster Keaton.
Oh, that awful (and irrelevant) title. Xantippe was the wife of the Greek philosopher Socrates; according to contemporary reports, she was quite a shrew. Whenever George MacFarland gets any backchat from a woman (or a female horse), he tries to placate her by saying 'Believe me, Xantippe.' (Do you feel better now?) It's an unfunny phrase, made worse by being the title of this movie. I'll rate 'Believe Me, Xantippe' 5 points ouf of 10; it probably deserves only a 4, but I give Wallace Reid an extra sympathy point, because of his undeserved fate: Hollywood literally killed him.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?