What a difference 11 minutes can make! A 72-minutes version of this delightful movie is now available on a really excellent print from Alpha. But first, here is my review of the 5-reel (65 minutes) Kodascope cutdown: Available on a very good Grapevine DVD, this well-made and often effectively directed Universal feature retains the viewer's interest despite its preachy, pro-Prohibition script that seems to change horses in mid-stream. At first, the movie's rich, hard-drinking, partner-swapping idlers are regarded as items of amusement. In the film's final reel (or at least in the Kodascope cutdown's final reel), however, this amused tolerance suddenly changes to a vicious condemnation which caught me right off guard. Nevertheless, mostly because of the charm of Miss May McAvoy, as well as the no-nonsense realism of crusading George Fawcett (even though Mr. Fawcett makes the character far too bitter in the final reel for what seemed up to that point in the narrative a light, romantic comedy), the movie still managed to appeal to me despite its change of heart and despite the unbelievable miscasting of Jack Mulhall as our young lady's suitor. Uncle Carl must have had rocks in his head the day he handed Muckhall I mean Mulhall such an unsuitable role! Jack tries hard, but that's just the problem it's too evident!
Now let's take a look at the full version: This time, Mulhall has almost exactly the same footage, but this time he seems just right for the part. How does this miracle come about? In the full movie, he has a crucial little scene early on which only runs for a few minutes, but it changes the whole aspect of his character and we are now given a reason an excellent reason for his somewhat hesitant portrayal. In fact, nobody else I can think of would have had the nerve to play the role so well. His co-star, pert May McAvoy, also comes across more pleasingly, while George Fawcett provides good contrast as the dad who takes a set against our hapless hero. Another pleasing touch is that the Fawcett character although ostensibly a sympathetic role is presented negatively right from the start, so we don't trust him, whereas in the cutdown he is presented as a 100% good guy. This shifts the burden of carrying the can to petite May McAvoy who seems unnaturally disobedient and unruly whereas it's actually the Fawcett character who's at fault. Mulhall's parents and companions are also presented far more negatively right from the start whereas in the cutdown they are merely figures of fun and we wonder why McAvoy and her dad react so negatively to them.
Well that was certainly a wake-up call, While we can be thankful that so many silent movies survive as 5-reel Kodascope cutdowns, in some cases the whole atmosphere of the original movie can be changed. Heroes can become villains while villains can become heroes!
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