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Hank owns horses, stables horses and races horses. He favorite horse always wins and he is prosperous and will known. His son (Bob), however dreams only of the future of the horseless carriage and not of the horse. This causes problems between Hank and Bob. As the people in the town convert from horses to autos, Hank detests those who switch - so he looses his friends, his son Bob and finally his livery business. Bob leaves his flame Rose and goes to Detroit, gets involved with the auto industry and does very well. He does not forget Hank and promises to see him again, but Hank's hatred of the auto may cause the death of Bob. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Horse-loving gentleman Russell Simpson (as "Hank" Armstrong) races his beloved mare "Sloe Eyes" in the 1895 Logan County Fair, in scenic Maple City, Michigan. He wins first prize, and celebrates by bringing "Sloe Eyes" to the local tavern; but, Mr. Simpson is saddened by the fact that son Charles Emmett Mack (as Bob Armstrong) is not present to see his father's triumph. Instead, Mr. Mack parties, in the city, with pretty Patsy Ruth Miller (as Rose Robbins). Yep, Simpson and Mack are suffering from a "generation gap".
Mack is a member of the "Horseless Carriage" generation, and is enthralled with the newly developing automobiles. When "Sloe Eyes" succumbs to a stroke, it seems like Simpson's older generation is passing in favor of Mack's auto-crazy youth. But, the passing mare leaves a young colt, "Bright Eyes", with enough horse sense to give primitive kerosene-powered buggies a run for their money. Yet, for the hoof set, it's a losing battle; and, the automobile takes control of the streets. Estranged from his son, Simpson slips into madness and despair. Then, an opportunity to reconcile with young Mack meets with tragedy
The tragedy depicted on-screen was nothing compared to the tragedy occurring off-screen; co-star Charles Emmett Mack was killed (decapitated, reportedly) in a real-life automobile accident on the way to a filming location fro this film. This sadness accompanied the premiere of "The First Auto", as audiences were well aware of Mack's passing. The film is valuable for its early automobile scenes, which were then much of the population's collective memory. Mack could not, obviously, complete his assignment; and, the movie suffers without two essential Mack scenes, near the end of the story.
Mack was a rising star, but it's difficult to determine how he would have transitioned into talking pictures; certainly, this film positioned him well. Warner Bros. used some dialogue in the "sound effects" track of "The First Auto" (common practice, then), which reached critical mass with "The Jazz Singer". Mack was considered an actor of consequence; he was one of Director D.W. Griffith's best latter period "discoveries", making strong impressions in "Dream Street" (1921) and "One Exciting Night" (1922). "The First Auto" also features Barney Oldfield (a celebrity driver) and William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons").
****** The First Auto (6/27/27) Roy Del Ruth ~ Russell Simpson, Charles Emmett Mack, Patsy Ruth Miller
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