an interesting early example of Ford's view of ethnicity
Ford was long accused of racism in his films, particularly in his westerns. I have seen several of his silent films (courtesy of AMC's recent festival of Ford films) and would argue that while Ford held stereotypical views of ethnicity and race, he was not a racist. Consider that early in "Riley the Cop" there is a group of children playing on Riley's beat that includes two black children who seem to be on equal footing with the others. Riley visits a young black woman who works as a cook in a house, where he takes a break from his beat and seems unconcerned about the cook's race. The bootblack is a stereotype, but hardly an unusual occupation for blacks in a city.
Riley himself is the stereotypical Irish cop, found in abundance in these early films, such as "The Shamrock Handicap." Since Ford was himself Irish, he seems to be having fun with the ethnicity, and extends a good-natured poke at German and French police officers to suggest a universal brotherhood among policemen. Given that just a dozen years before this film was made, the Germans were the mortal enemies of the Allies in the Great War, everyone here seems to be getting along pretty well.
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