THE HOME STRETCH (1921) sacrifices amusement for an ironic look at small town life, that would hardly seem to be aimed at middle America. Like the Charles Ray films for producer Thomas Ince, those for his other male star, Douglas MacLean, were far from confined to the fairly simplistic formulas and repetitive personas which might seem endemic from contracts that called for releases about every six weeks. As I outline in my Ince biography, MacLean's THE HOME STRETCH (1921) provides an astonishing example of the variation possible.
THE HOME STRETCH largely sacrifices amusement for a straight dramatic account of a man raised on the racetrack. Soon it almost veers into gangster territory, however, when at a party MacLean's character, Johnny Hardwick, defends a lady struck by a man, smashing a bottle over the culprit's head. Johnny flees from the law, hiding in a "jerkwater" town, until informed that, after all, the man did not die. Finding him is a man whose little girl wandered out into the track during a race and nearly was killed before Johnny saved her, though it cost him the race and lost him thousands of dollars.
Given a new job at a society hotel, Johnny's temper again gets the better of him when he defends a woman's reputation. However, he uses the opportunity to talk himself into a job in the store of a man whose daughter he loves. The man is going broke because of unpaid credit purchases, until Johnny realizes people will pay, if offered the chance to settle for 1/3 off what they owe. Even then, until the end, Johnny believes he is losing his girlfriend to another man. This hardly seems to be a story aimed at either middle America or small town audiences who would easily resent the unfavorable depiction of their life. THE HOME STRETCH cost $101,328 to produce, and grossed $217,983.
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