'The Fifty-Fifty Girl' is a pleasant comedy with some adventure content. It's hardly a great film, but it retains some interest for its depiction of feminism, 1928 vintage. At this point, women in America had been voting for eight years and were now seeking other ways to redefine their role in society. Like many other films from this period, 'Fifty-Fifty' makes a few cheap jokes at the very tempting target of the feminist movement, but it avoids the easy path of ridiculing feminism altogether.
Bebe Daniels (even prettier than usual here) plays Kathleen O'Hara, an independent young woman. For contrived reasons, she and Jim Donahue (Jim Hall, not a good performance) both seem to have valid claims on the franchise of a mine in a remote Western location. Kathleen and Jim 'meet cute' (I really dislike that term) when they separately arrive at the assaying office, each expecting to claim sole ownership of the mine.
In order to retain the franchise, the mine must continue to produce ore. Kathleen and Jim agree to work the mine together. But Kathleen doesn't take orders from men: she insists that *she* will be the leader of this expedition, and Jim must obey her orders. On the other hand, she doesn't want to be perceived as a weak damsel: she fully agrees that she and Jim must divide the labour equally, as well as sharing equally the proceeds of the mine. This equanimity prompts Jim to call her 'the 50-50 girl'.
Of course, nothing comes easy. William Austin gives a good performance as a local baddie who hopes to claim the mine for himself. He engages the services of some local banditos to scare away Kathleen and Jim. The leader of these goons is Buck, played by George Kotsonaros ... an actor of such spectacular ugliness that he single-handedly brings this comedy into horror-movie territory. Kotsonaros seems intentionally to be playing his role as some sort of Beast-Man (on a cultural exchange from the Island of Dr Moreau, perhaps) rather than a human being. He's quite effective, but his performance really seems to be spliced in from a horror movie.
SPOILERS COMING. At several points during this film, the script and the direction actually treat Kathleen's feminist fervour with genuine respect. So I was disappointed by the movie's ending. After Jim rescues Kathleen from various perils, she learns her lesson: a woman needs a big strong man, and she should have sense enough to be a good little wifey and let *him* make the decisions. In fairness, this mind-set was somewhat more reasonable in 1928, when women lacked the options available today. Still, it's a letdown.
Talking of letdowns, actor Harry T. Morey gives a terrible performance in what's meant to be a comedy-relief role, as a dude from Boston. One of the Westerners is played by an actor named John O'Hara, but he's not the 'New Yorker' author of that name (who *did* appear onscreen in 'The General Died at Dawn', a much better movie than this one). Some of the exterior photography in '50/50 Girl' is quite impressive. Bebe Daniels gives a sparkling performance here, despite poor material. I'm prejudiced in her favour; I have a high opinion of Bebe Daniels and her husband Ben Lyon for choosing to remain in Britain during World War Two.
The script of '50/50 Girl' was largely written by Lloyd Corrigan, who had a long career as a screenwriter, director and character actor ... but was never especially notable in any of these callings. I've derided Corrigan rather brutally in a couple of other IMDb reviews, but now I want to amend this. Recently I saw the film 'Since You Went Away', in which Corrigan plays a supporting role ... and I was astonished that he gave a performance of great subtlety and depth. I wish he'd done as good a job with the script of this movie. I'm tempted to wisecrack that 'Fifty-Fifty' adds up to zero-zero, but that isn't fair. I'll rate this pleasant movie 6 out of 10.
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