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A Truthful Liar (1924)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Jack Ackroyd ...
Flunky
R.O. Pennell ...
The King (as Richard Pennell)
Jack Cooper ...
The Prince
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Beth Darlington ...
Mary Doolittle
Madge Hunt ...
Agatha Doolittle
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Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

17 August 1924 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Agatha Doolittle: [in a partly-fake fluttery huff after inspecting the thick wad of bills - - Will's winnings from the poker games with the King - - that Will hands to her] You promised me you wouldn't gamble!
Ambassador Alfalfa Doolittle: You don't know the King - - he was such a lousy poker-player that I knew I could win every game. So I wasn't gamblin'; I was just collectin'.
Agatha Doolittle: [...]
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User Reviews

 
Tall tales from a cowboy politician
1 November 2009 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

The two-reel comedies Will Rogers made for producer Hal Roach during the 1923-4 season are a mixed lot. Two of the shorts feature parodies of then-current movie stars (Douglas Fairbanks, Valentino, etc.) and are still enjoyable for buffs interested in the silent era. In some of his other Roach comedies Will seemed to be casting about for the right sort of character to play, switching from lovable hobo to humble ranch hand to cowboy hero. On three occasions Rogers played a regular guy named Alfalfa Doolittle who gets elected to Congress, goes to Washington and rubs elbows with the power elite. This persona offered Will the best opportunity to harness one of his primary comic gifts, his sharp satirical view of modern America, particularly the political scene.

As it turned out, the Alfalfa Doolittle trilogy proved to be as much of a mixed bag as Rogers's general output for the Roach Studio: the first short, entitled Going to Congress, is moderately amusing but over-reliant on dialog titles for humor, while the second short (Our Congressman) suffers from weak gags and an anticlimactic ending. The final short A Truthful Liar is the best of the lot, and perhaps the funniest of Will's silent films. This short has a zany tone and some off-the-wall touches that give it the feel of a Sennett comedy, which should come as no surprise, as director Hampton Del Ruth was a Sennett Studio veteran. Del Ruth's tenure at the Roach Studio was relatively brief and marked with problems, but in this instance he brought much-needed energy to the material at hand. If Del Ruth had been in charge of the Alfalfa Doolittle trilogy from the beginning the series probably would have been more fun over all, and might even have been extended further.

When last seen in the second installment, Doolittle has been in Congress long enough to develop an inflated sense of self-importance (he even plays golf), and it's clear he's lost touch with his hometown constituents. At the top of this film we find that more time has passed, and the ex-congressman is now returning home as a private citizen. We learn that he left Congress for an ambassadorship, traveled the world and hobnobbed with royalty. The rest of the film consists of the tales Doolittle tells the home-town folks about his adventures overseas. This flashback premise is a clever idea, because it allows our hero to exaggerate freely; it also allows for cartoon-y gags that may remind some viewers of Million Dollar Legs or the early Marx Brothers comedies. There's a crazed anarchist who pops up repeatedly, a pair of bearded men eating lozenges -- the Smith Brothers, of course -- and a ceremony where dignitaries lay the cornerstone of the new Home for Disabled Tenors. When Doolittle has an audience with the King (who resembles England's George V), he arrives in court wearing his cowboy gear. After he rescues the King from an assassination attempt, Doolittle takes the grateful monarch to a pub where he teaches him to eat hot dogs and play poker. Eventually, we're told, the American ambassador wins the King's crown in a card game.

The exaggerations and absurdities in Doolittle's story build to an amusing climax, topped with a nicely handled fade-out gag. It appears that Will Rogers didn't have a high opinion of the two-reel comedies he made at the Roach Studio, and indeed some of them look like half-hearted efforts, but A Truthful Liar stands out as a lively, off-beat comedy, and a fitting finale to the Alfalfa Doolittle trilogy.


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