Three crooks pull off a magnificent crime. As they're forced to hide out together they slowly begin to distrust each other.

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Roy Donovan
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Mike Donovan
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Three crooks pull off a magnificent crime. As they're forced to hide out together they slowly begin to distrust each other.

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Crime | Drama | Mystery

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17 December 1923 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Den hvide Tiger  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

A Jewel Production. Universal did not own a proprietary theater network and sought to differentiate its feature product to independent theater owners. Carl Laemmle created a 3-tiered branding system: Red Feather (low budget programmers), Bluebird (mainstream releases) and Jewel (prestige films). Jewel releases were promoted as worthy of special promotion in hopes of commanding higher roadshow ticket prices. Universal ended branding in late 1929. See more »

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Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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Are you looking for a crime flick about a mechanical chess player? Congratulations!
18 April 2005 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This silent drama marked the ninth and last collaboration between director Tod Browning, best remembered for such macabre classics as The Unknown and Freaks, and actress Priscilla Dean, who is hardly remembered at all. Miss Dean was quite the star in her day, and was even called the Queen of the Universal Lot in the early 1920s, but nowadays the only attention she receives is due largely to ongoing interest in some of her colleagues. Beginning in 1918 she and Browning collaborated on a series of crime melodramas, including Outside the Law (1920), a box office sensation that also featured Lon Chaney in a dual role and boosted his career considerably. Chaney would make some of his best known films with Browning in subsequent years, and although their work is generally assigned to the horror genre most of their movies belong to a niche category Browning essentially invented and certainly favored throughout his career: "caper" flicks involving small-time criminals connected to the lower rungs of show business: circuses, carnivals, wax museums, etc.

White Tiger is one of these sagas, and although Chaney is not present-- unfortunately! --Priscilla Dean plays opposite two interesting co-stars: Wallace Beery, who all but cornered the market in unsympathetic character roles during the silent era, and Raymond Griffith, who at this time had not yet launched his own series of wry, quirky comedies. The story concerns a trio of crooks who manage to get themselves invited into the homes of wealthy suckers by offering an unusual gimmick: a mechanical chess-player that can challenge any human player and win. The automaton is, of course, bogus, operated by Griffith concealed within. Meanwhile, Beery impersonates a count (most unconvincingly) and passes off Dean as his daughter. After a demonstration of the machine, Griffith slips out and steals valuables, which are then hidden inside the chess-player. If the plot sounds a wee bit far-fetched, it is. Perhaps this would have worked better as a comedy, but the actors play it straight and little that happens is believable, even "Hollywood" believable.

Eventually the crooks wind up in a remote cabin with their loot and they all struggle with a growing sense of paranoia regarding each other's intentions. (Browning would re-use this motif with his trio of crooks in The Unholy Three a couple of years later.) The true nature of the relationship between the three characters is ultimately revealed, and there is a modicum of violence before matters are resolved. The last section of the film suffers from "cabin fever" in the most literal sense of the phrase: we're supposed to be gripped by suspense as tensions rise between the three crooks, but instead things get draggy and viewers could be forgiven for wishing they'd wrap up the story a little faster.

The print of White Tiger I've seen is somewhat abridged, but even granting the filmmakers leeway where missing footage is concerned the movie is not entirely coherent and, in the end, not very satisfying. (To put it another way, even if a pristine camera negative of the original release print were to be miraculously discovered, I don't think it would improve matters much.) The biggest problem is a scenario damaged by too many credibility stretches and unmotivated actions. As I mentioned earlier, this was the ninth crime drama Browning made with Priscilla Dean, and it would be fair to suggest that the formula was wearing thin by this point. Additionally, according to the biography of Browning by David J. Skaal and Elias Savada, at the time this film was made the writer/director was overwhelmed by personal difficulties and drinking heavily, which may explain the movie's shortcomings: the enterprise bears an unmistakable air of fatigue. Apparently the version Browning turned in to his bosses was a mess, and Universal shelved the film for over a year after its completion. Finally, anonymous studios hands were assigned to salvage the project with a fresh edit and newly written title cards. At this late date it's impossible to tell whether the film's deficiencies were present from the beginning or are the result of nitrate decomposition in surviving prints over the years, but in any case the film received poor reviews and was not a success upon its release in 1923, and the major players went their separate ways. Raymond Griffith became a star of sophisticated comedies of the late silent era; Wallace Beery became a character star of the '30s and '40s; and Tod Browning managed to pull himself together and produce the horror classics for which he is remembered.

As for Priscilla Dean, her career went into a decline not long after White Tiger was released. By 1927 she was appearing in two-reel comedies under Hal Roach's "All-Star" banner, alongside such fellow has-beens as Mabel Normand and Theda Bara. One of Dean's comedies, Slipping Wives, featured Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in one of their early appearances together, serving to underscore the irony that the one-time Queen of the Universal Lot is today remembered only for the company she kept.


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