Silent-film star Wallace Reid is (like Roscoe Arbuckle) unfairly remembered for a scandal which didn't accurately reflect his true life or career. Reid played clean-cut young men, until his sudden death revealed a history of morphine abuse. This was actually the fault of front-office executives at Reid's home studio, who forced him to keep working under heavy medication after he was injured in a railway accident en-route to location filming for 'Valley of the Giants'. After Reid's death, the same studio tried to protect its own image by circulating rumours that Reid had led a double life as a secret drug addict.
James Cruze was an extremely talented silent-film director whose career is now, unfairly, almost totally forgotten. "Thirty Days" is not one of his more typical films, but it's a fast-moving slapstick farce, brightly enjoyable. Logic jumps out the window during the first reel, but you won't miss it. Reid gives a delightful performance which shows us just what a fine comedy talent was lost.
Reid plays John Floyd, a handsome young playboy. He innocently flirts with Wanda Hawley (very pretty), only to find out that she's engaged to marry a hot-headed Italian named Giacomo Polenta. That name is hilarious, and the actor who plays this role gives one of the funniest performances I've ever seen. (His name is Herschell Mayall ... I wonder if he's related to the English comedian Rik Mayall?) Polenta is a stereotypical comic-opera Italian, so of course he carries a huge knife ... and he comes after Floyd with it.
Floyd gets home safe and sound, where his mother tells him that the new cook from the employment agency is waiting in Floyd's kitchen. Floyd goes into the kitchen and meets the new cook: surprise! It's Giacomo Polenta! He snatches a cleaver off the wall and chases Floyd.
Well, obviously, the only way Floyd can escape from this maniac is to get himself locked up in prison for a while. (I told you this movie isn't logical.) Floyd runs down to the police station, with Polenta in hot pursuit. Floyd begs the nice policemen to lock him up, but they refuse because he hasn't broken any laws ... so Floyd starts beating up the policemen. Well, he wanted to get locked up, and now he'll get his wish. Charles Ogle (a stalwart of several Cruze films) gives a funny performance as the befuddled judge who sends Floyd to the hoosegow for thirty days' worth of porridge to get away from Polenta.
Finally, Floyd ends up in a nice safe comfortable gaol cell, where he can get some peace and quiet. And here comes his new cellmate. Guess who? Yes, it's Giacomo Polenta, who has conveniently brought his entire collection of carving-knives and cleavers into the prison with him. (Very considerate of the admissions guard to let him bring the knives into prison.) Kalla Pasha, a big hefty actor, does some great physical comedy as the prison governor who gets caught between Floyd and Polenta.
After the story's premise was set up in the first reel, I literally laughed non-stop through the rest of this utterly hilarious movie. How sad that Wallace Reid is (inaccurately) remembered as a drugs addict, instead of celebrated as one of the great comic actors of silent films. Somebody please put "Thirty Days" onto video, so that the whole world can enjoy this splendid comedy. My rating: 10 out of 10.
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