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This is the first Charles Ray film that I've seen. He was the embodiment
clean-cut American goodness and was enormously popular in the silent
And it's easy to see why. Not only does he have devastatingly good looks, he is also very charming and is able to convey a shy humility that is very touching. There is a deep emotional undercurrent to all his work - and he openly cries in this film. This is a type of acting not often seen with male actors - he is vulnerable and soft and utterly beguiling.
The story's not bad either - a simple baseball yarn as a naive country boy is selected for a big city team and is temporarily corrupted by the decadence of city life.
In support are two future stars - the 19 year old John Gilbert and the 18 year old Colleen Moore. Gilbert is very funny as the arrogant son of the local banker trying to woo Colleen away from Ray. And she's great too as the little country girl who is devoted to Ray.
Highly recommended. It is available on Grapevine Video. It's a good print too - and catch those animated title cards - very cool!
Sentimental and charming silent film starring Charles Ray as Ben, a
bashful small town farm boy who loves baseball and is the pride of the
town based on his great curve ball. He lives in the kind of pleasant
country town of yesteryear where the doings include box socials, square
dances, and old-timers gossiping in the general store sitting around
the pickle barrel. When the St. Paul Pink Sox get stranded in town for
a day, Ben asks these new fellows to choose sides and play some ball -
not realizing they are professional ballplayers. He manages to strike
out a top player and is soon invited to join the team. The other
players think he's a rube and decide to "break him in", and soon our
fellow has acquired city ways, city clothes, and a city vamp chasing
after him - - and he forgets his small town friends.
This is a very enjoyable film - a real treat to see. Colleen Moore is very young and lovely here - but it is Charles Ray who plays the innocent country boy with so much charm, vulnerability, and emotion, he completely steals this film. There is a very entertaining scene showing a bid for lunches at the "box social" in which the men can only see the ladies via shadow play - Charles Ray elicits much emotion in this scene, as well as another scene where he receives a telegram and is worried that someone has died - everything he's thinking registering on his handsome, open face. By the way, watch for a very young and slim John Gilbert in this, as the banker's son, a rival for the affections of Colleen Moore. The Kino DVD of this features a nice-looking print and fast-paced, snappy ragtime piano score that suits the film to a tea.
Nice little film about baseball and love in rural America in 1919.
Charles Ray stars as the local hero in the "bush" league who gets his chance in the major leagues but is a failure. He comes back home in disgrace but gets a second chance by winning the big game back in the bush leagues. His reward is a second chance at the big league and winning the local sweetheart (Colleen Moore).
Snappy 55-minute film is a showcase for Ray who was a big star in silent films. The film is also good for early looks at Moore and John Gilbert (who plays the banker's son) who would both be superstars of the 20s.
In 1919 baseball was the passion of America, and this film is full of little touches of baseball humor and slogans. Worth a look.
Reviewing and rating a movie like THE BUSHER is difficult in that you
really can't place the same standards on this film as you would a sound
film or even a silent film from only a few years later. That's because
until about 1912, there really hadn't been feature films as we think of
them today. Most films were incredibly short in length and a 10-minute
film was about average. Complex films were certainly NOT the norm,
though a few exceptions come to mind (such as the Italian film CABIRIA,
several D. W. Griffith epics and the delightful DADDY LONGLEGS).
Generally, when we think of the "great" silents, they are the ones made
in the 1920s--and often the mid to late 1920s.
So, for 1919, THE BUSHER is a definite standout film, though had it been made just a few years later I would have rated it lower as my expectations would have been a lot higher. For example, the plot seemed extremely melodramatic (and similar to a Horatio Alger story) and was a lot like an old fashioned stage production in that sense. But, for 1919, this was NOT seen as clichéd and so this can easily be forgiven.
As for the rest of the film, it was shot on location in what looked like a small town and offered a lot of heart. From a historical or nostalgic point of view, it was a lot of fun to watch. Baseball fans in particular will love the old uniforms, gloves and style of play and can forgive the somewhat archaic characters. Those NOT enamored with history, nostalgia and baseball still might enjoy the film, though with kids craving explosions and mindless entertainment, this film might be too taxing or cerebral for some viewers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really enjoyed this enchanting little baseball movie! Charles Ray carries this film with his personality and ease in this role! Ray plays the "busher", a talented small town ballplayer with aspirations for the big leagues, but when that chance actually transpires, he becomes corrupted by the big city and finds that his heart for baseball lies in his roots and the support of the hometown folks! A young Colleen Moore and John Gilbert are excellent too, with Gilbert seeming to glory in his role of the conceited bad boy who tries to steal Moore away from greenhorn Ray. But Charles Ray is the real star with his vulnerability and ease in this part! He has a natural athleticism that makes him seem at home on the baseball diamond too! This movie is a precursor to later baseball movies such as The Natural where the main character loves the game, but is corrupted by outside influences, only to be redeemed by returning to his pure and natural mainspring.
Charles Ray (as Benjamin "Ben" Harding) is a country boy who loves
baseball; he's the pride of small town Brownsville. His sweetheart,
Colleen Moore (as Mazie Palmer), has a batting average of 1,000 in Mr.
Ray's affection - however, he barely gets to first base! John "Jack"
Gilbert (as Jim Blair) is a rival for Ms. Moore's affections; he is not
only a heel, with a tendency to drink and gamble - Mr. Gilbert is also
more well-heeled, being a banker's son. When St. Paul Pink Sox, a big
league team, is stranded in Brownsville, Ray gets to strut his stuff;
then, he is offered a major league spot. Will success spoil Ben
Ray is convincing as "The Busher", displaying the little mannerisms which made him so successful in this type of part. His face and body movements expertly portray the "innocent country boy" type. He says, "Gosh!". Entering a social, he pats his hair down with a licked hand. His performance at the "Box Social" is charming - at this occasion, the men "bid" on women they can only see as shadows behind a screen. Moore and Gilbert are fine in the supporting roles; both would become major 1920s stars.
The St. Paul Pink Sox? It might have been a combination of the Boston Red and White Sox. Ray's curve ball nicely strikes out into one of the title cards, and that "Box Social" sure looked fun. It's difficult to believe a major league baseball team considers you finished after one bad game, though; if that were true, there would be no baseball.
****** The Busher (5/18/19) Jerome Storm ~ Charles Ray, Colleen Moore, John Gilbert, Jay Morley
Apparently Charles Ray (who stars in this movie as Ben Harding) was
quite a famous actor in the silent movie scene of the 1910's, playing
essentially variations on the same character - the small town boy who
gets dazzled by the bright lights of the big city. In this movie, the
character gets set in the context of baseball. Harding is a pitcher for
the local team in Brownsville. Brownsville is a small, rural place
where people care about each other, and where Harding has a crush (I
call it that because it seems so appropriate for the overall innocence
of the town!) on Mazie (Colleen Moore.) But Harding's talent brings him
to the attention of the big league "St. Paul Pink Sox" where, once
introduced to big league life in the big city, Harding forgets his
roots and becomes so full of himself that he ends up being let go by
the Sox. His baseball career quickly over, Harding returns to
Brownville and reconnects with those he had forgotten, finally leading
the local team to a big win over rival Centerville.
The story's nothing special. The basic idea of the wayward, prodigal son returning home and re-connecting has been around, after all, at least since the days of Jesus! Still, this is a pleasant movie, and I liked Ray in the lead. Like the movie, he was simple and straightforward, an almost underplayed performance (especially by silent movie standards) that I really liked. The movie blends together drama and comedy and romance into a workable story, and some of the "onfield" action gave an interesting enough look at baseball of that era.
There's certainly nothing wrong with this; there's also nothing especially spectacular about it. It's just a nicely made film revolving around a familiar theme and starring a very likable lead. (6/10)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In THE BUSHER (1919), the mind of Ray's character is consumed with
baseball, and spotted by professionals when the train is detained in
his small town of Brownville. However, with hazing, he is corrupted by
his teammates and hangers-on, coming to believe he is too important to
stay true to his local fans and the girl who loves him (Colleen Moore).
Only at the end does he return to his senses, saving the team with his
pitches as he did when a bush-league player, but now dedicated to his
girl rather than a career with the majors.
John Gilbert, whom producer Thomas Ince had lost during the departure from Triangle since his contract was to that company, had found himself unable to find work because he had been drafted and was liable to be called up for the war effort at any moment. Desperate, he had contacted his former employer, as I outline in my Ince biography. Ince realized that Gilbert was ideal for the role of a spoiled, flashy "rich kid," seeking the favor of Moore. His scenes could be shot first, so that there would be no problem finishing it should Gilbert be called up (which he eventually was, fortuitously on November 11, which proved to be the day of the armistice).
Typically, the Ray films had complex undercurrents. The story of THE BUSHER, although trite, demonstrated Ince's belief that outsiders to the industry could contribute scripts; this one was submitted by Earle Snell, a University of California professor. Ironically, although in fact a cautionary tale, THE BUSHER may have been advertised as a simpler, rags-to-riches fable. A feature in Photo-Play Journal, "The Story of the 'Busher'--Charles Ray's Late Photoplay Told in Pictures" recounted the narrative entirely with captioned stills, but eliminated all of the hero's failings and disillusionment.
If this represents the level of quality of Charles Ray's films (and
I'll bet it does; it comes from Thomas Ince's well-oiled factory) I can
readily understand his stardom. The movie is very well made, and very
well directed by Jerome Storm, whom I've never heard of, but the man
directed at least 47 films between 1917 and 1932, and he did a nice job
Ray himself is delightful. He's cute as a button (you just want to put him in your pocket) and very skilled. He was also quite good playing a continental rake in The Garden of Eden, so the man had some versatility. So what the hell happened with Ray? I can understand his star falling, but why wasn't he able to transition to decent second leads and character parts? He couldn't even have been a wisecracking sidekick? He looks perfect for it.
Colleen Moore is a breath of spring here, as usual. Moore illustrates the odd fact about the silent era that you can play lead after lead for years and not be considered a star but merely an "artist." She needed the China doll hair to make her stand apart, and to find her "wholesome flapper" niche.
As for Gilbert, this was when he was doing anything and everything for Ince, and he's the spoiled rich boy here. I've seen it alleged that Gilbert without the mustache didn't register somehow, but I don't find that true here at all. He looks dreamy, and of course there's nothing wrong with his acting in this small part.
It's a very outdoorsy film (well, it's a baseball picture) and the movie gets the small town ambiance very well: chickens flapping around the homestead; a municipal baseball field; a tacky little local movie house; the arrival of a telegram inevitably assumed to mean a death. The brief big city scenes are well done as well, and there is a handsome urban hotel lobby in one scene.
This is the kind of non-slapstick (but still with a physical component) comedy of manners that hasn't endured from the silents as easily as the comedies of the silent clowns (it's the kind of movie Swanson was making with Bobby Vernon's unit for Sennett before the unit was dissolved and she was suddenly being asked to learn pratfalls). It's gentle and sweet and quietly amusing. Glad it has survived, and been restored so nicely.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Busher" is a somewhat charming little feature. It's a rural
romance, where the hero is temporarily corrupted by the citya common
type of American picture during the silent era. The baseball part
serves to distinguish it from other such fare, although its star
Charles Ray had already appeared in a similar project, "The Pinch
Hitter" (1917), so maybe there isn't much there to separate. The
baseball footage is okay, although there is some bad continuity during
the big league game, and Ray clearly can't really throw a ball (he
lightly tosses it and adds wasted motion in his windup). "The Busher"
also features some nice art titles.
A star from the mid teens to early twenties, Ray seems to have specialized in this role of country bumpkin making good and winning the affections of his sweetheart (here played by Colleen Moore, who would become a bigger star later in the 20s). Ray has all sorts of hesitations and odd mannerisms down pat for the type, but I've seen better, such as by Richard Barthelmess ("Tol'able David") and Robert Harron ("True Heart Susie"). Another would-be star, John Gilbert, gives what I consider the best performance here, though. He's a slick and gleeful opponent to the hero; it's just too bad his part was so small. Additionally, Margaret Livingston plays Pearl Devere, the woman from the city, which she also played in "Sunrise" (1927).
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