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Rogers plays a small town banker in the 1890s whose chief rival is the deacon (Middleton) with whom he has traded horse flesh. Taylor is a bank teller who places a winning $4,500 bet on a 10-1 harness racing horse, making him Rogers' bank partner. Written by
"David Harum" is one of the most unusual performances for Will Rogers. Usually, he plays a very simple man with simple and strong values. However, in this film, he's not exactly an admirable man in some ways--and it sure takes a while for you to realize that he IS a decent guy after all! Because of this, folks who love the nice-guy that Rogers usually plays, my advice is to hold on--keep watching the movie as eventually you come to really like the guy.
One of the oddest things about this film is that David Harum (Rogers) is a banker--the sort of person you'd NEVER expect the populist Rogers to play in a movie! Bankers were often the sorts he would have made fun of an criticized in that gentle Rogers manner, as Rogers message was mostly to the common man--the sort that were affected greatly by the Depression and who often blamed bankers and investors for the financial mess. And, for some time, Harum seems a lot like a disreputable sort. Despite his folksy talk and simple clothes, Harum is a hard business man and lying a tricking people is pretty much his style when it comes to his favorite avocation, horse trading. He LOVES to trick his neighbors when trading and selling horses and his sister chides him for this. So, as I said above, it was hard to like him for much of the film. But, by the time he's involved in the big race at the end of the film, you're pulling for him as well as the nice couple he's befriended.
So is the film any good? Sure. The acting by Rogers is what it always is--gentle, natural and amazingly good. Additionally, the story is nice and you come to realize that some of the folks Harum cheated were jerks and sure had it coming! Is it a great Rogers film? No. There are a few problems with it--particularly with the use of the black actor Stepin Fetchit. He was in several other Rogers films and once again plays an incredibly dumb and almost sub- human sort of character. Folks back in the 1930s LOVED seeing Fetchit play these awful characters--but folks today will most likely be offended (as well they should). I was particularly shocked when Harum traded not only a horse but Fetchit along with it--like he was as commodity and not a human being. Sad, though it does not destroy the film. But, because of it, it's probably unlikely that you'll ever see this film on television.
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