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The first United Artists movie - a MILESTONE, and a GREAT comedy!
When Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith had founded United Artists as a counterweight to the trust the big studios had formed against the small ones, Doug was chosen to make the first step: to realize the first project of the new independent company. And after an introduction explaining the goals of the newly-formed studio, he jumps right 'out of the titles' and declares, with his irresistible smile and his unbreakable optimism, about that first United Artists venture in his most CHARACTERISTICAL way: 'Gee whiz - I hope you'll like it!'
And how could anyone NOT like this hilarious comedy-adventure - with a length of almost two hours, a running time that RARELY keeps the audience from getting bored, except if there is SO much action in it as in this one - and its hero, dynamic and adventure-seeking as always?! He starts out as Bill Brooks from New York, a volunteer fireman and policeman just for adventure's sake (beating up the most dangerous criminals and rescuing a whole family and their cat from the third floor of a building in flames, swinging over with a rope from the opposite building - and happily remarking when he finally takes the little black kitty from the already crumbling house: 'Fine! Nine lives saved on the last trip!'), because he's well off financially, although he doesn't even know where the money comes from...
But then, a new mayor 'cleans up' the city, and Bill finds himself with nothing to do; so he decides to go to Mexico to catch a ruthless rebel named 'Francisco Villa' - while, at the same time, unknown to him, they're waiting for him desperately in a little Central European state called Alaine... There, a good king (strange how Americans always seem to be longing for the monarchy they never had...), although he's just about to introduce a new, more democratic constitution, is being opposed by his scheming Minister of War, who's collaborating with the ruthless ruler of a neighboring country to stir up the people against their king... And here, amidst all the wonderful comedy and action, the film also teaches the audience a lesson about the dangers demagogues pose, and how easily they're able to rouse the people - years before Mussolini and Hitler, unfortunately, made that nightmare a reality! And so, the people of Alaine keep demanding 'new blood' in the royal family; with which the evil Minister of War means the equally evil Prime Minister of the neighboring state, of course - while the old king is still hoping to find the missing young member of his family; and at the same time, our hero Bill keeps hoping to find the ONE thing he never had: his mother...
A most MASTERFUL and immensely faceted movie, part comedy, part adventure, and even containing serious political and social elements - and, of course, a WONDERFUL vehicle for Doug Fairbanks to show ALL his repertory, from his acrobatics to his great comical talent to his romantic side; there surely couldn't have been a better start for the 'newborn' United Artists Corporation!!
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