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Her Honor, the Governor (1926)



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Cast overview:
Adele Fenway
Carroll Nye ...
Bob Fenway
Greta von Rue ...
Marian Lee
Richard Palmer
Stanton Heck ...
Jim Dornton
Snipe Collins
Jack Richardson ...
Charles McHugh
Kathleen Kirkham
William Worthington


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Plot Keywords:

domestic | melodrama | See All (2) »







Release Date:

19 July 1926 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Governadora  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Karloff's most surprising performance
13 February 2003 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Her Honour, the Governor' is a fairly implausible movie inspired by actual events. James Ferguson was governor of Texas during the Great War and for some years thereafter. Throughout his administration, his wife Miriam Amanda Ferguson showed no political ambitions of her own: she was happy to be a wife, a mother and First Lady of Texas. In 1924, whilst standing for re-election as incumbent, Ferguson was impeached and therefore couldn't get his name on the ballot even though he remained popular with the electorate. His wife ran for office in his stead, promising the voters that she would let her husband make the decisions and that accordingly they would get 'two governors for the price of one'. (This reminds me of Hillary Clinton's promise that she intended to be her husband's "co-President".) Miriam Ferguson was elected in a landslide, becoming only the second woman governor in U.S. history. (Nellie Ross had become governor of Wyoming only 15 days earlier.) Nicknamed "Ma" Ferguson because of her initials and her relationship to her gubernatorial predecessor (her husband), M.A. Ferguson was a popular and strong-willed governor: she opposed the Ku Klux Klan, campaigned for repeal of Prohibition and managed to clear her husband's name.

'Her Honour, the Governor' (filmed less than two years after 'Ma' Ferguson won election) is clearly based on those events without following them very closely. Pauline Frederick plays Adele Fenway, the wife of a gubernatorial candidate. His previous marriage ended in divorce, but he and Adele are happily married and have an adult son Bob (played by Carroll Nye, best known for playing Scarlett O'Hara's second husband in 'Gone with the Wind'). When Adele's husband dies suddenly, she accepts the nomination in his stead and is elected governor in her own right despite the opposition of Senator Dornton (played by Stanton Heck at his slimiest). Dornton is surrounded by toadies and criminal underlings, most notably Snipe Collins... who is played in a remarkable performance by Boris Karloff. Snipe is a dope addict, and Karloff manages to instill this role with all sorts of showy little twitches and grimaces without quite going over the edge into overplaying the role. I've been impressed by many of Karloff's performances: this isn't his best role, but it's possibly his most surprising performance and one of his most carefully controlled.

Unable to get 'Ma' Fenway out of office any other way, Dornton's henchmen steal her husband's divorce papers and then spread a rumour that his second marriage (to Adele) was never legal ... which means that Bob Fenway was born illegitimately. Adele can't prove that her husband was legally divorced, so she can't disprove the rumours. (Nowadays, with all vital records on computer databases, this would never happen.) Bob Fenway was just about to marry the lovely young Marian Lee ... but now the rumours have put a cloud> over his impending marriage. When Dornton's henchman Slade provokes Bob into an argument at the top of a flight of stairs, in front of witnesses, Bob gives Slade a sock in the jaw which sends him pelting downstairs (in a well-staged sequence). Snipe Collins is waiting at the bottom of the stairs, with no witnesses: seeing his chance, Snipe kills Slade ... making it look> as though Slade was killed by Bob's roundhouse punch. Instead of getting married, Bob is charged with murder.

As governor of the state, Adele has the executive power to pardon her own son ... but before she can exercise this, she is framed by Dornton on political charges leading to her impeachment, which deprives her of her executive powers. Bob must stand trial for murder.

At the climax of the film, Adele bursts into the courtroom and demands to speak ... not as governor, but as the mother of the defendant. Up until now, this has been a fairly good film ... but now actress Pauline Frederick launches into a long self-indulgent bout of histrionics (with too many long speeches in silent-film intertitles) while the judge and the jury just sit there. The film loses all plausibility at this point. Also, Karloff, the most interesting performer in the film, isn't present during these scenes.

The ending of the film manages to be implausible and yet predictable. I'll rate this movie 4 points out of 10, and 2 of those points are for Karloff's superb and restrained performance.

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