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A Millionaire for a Minute (1915)

Gale, the Village Schoolmarm, wants to marry Ezekial Brown, but her Uncle objects to the match.

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The Village Schoolmarm
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Her Lover, Ezekial Brown
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Her Uncle, an Egyptologist
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Holden Grab, a Social Bandit
Lillian Peacock ...
The Duchess, a Social Bandit
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Gale, the Village Schoolmarm, wants to marry Ezekial Brown, but her Uncle objects to the match.

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Comedy | Short

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16 October 1915 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Gale Henry: gone, but not forgotten
12 July 2015 | by See all my reviews

Silent film buffs who have seen a fair number of comedies will find plenty of familiar elements in this unexceptional but agreeable short. The setting is a rural village, where a rather eccentric farmhand named Ezekial Brown (Max Asher) is in love with the local schoolmarm (Gale Henry). However, their marriage is blocked by her guardian (Billy Franey), a crabby old man with a gouty foot, who just happens to be an Egyptologist. (Every town has one, I suppose.) Once you see that his foot is swathed in bandages, you can bet the rent money it's going to get stepped on, probably more than once, and you won't lose a penny. It's never explained why the lady requires a guardian in the first place, as she appears to be well past adolescence, but no matter; we just have to accept that her Uncle has the final say in her affairs, and he doesn't approve of her liaison with Ezekial.

Meanwhile, Ezekial has an uncle of his own with an unusual history. This uncle, who we never see, is a world traveler who collects precious artifacts, and is reputed to be the "favorite of a Hindu Prince." (Sounds like there's a colorful back-story there, but the details are left to our imaginations.) In any event, Ezekial receives a letter announcing that he will receive his uncle's "most valuable possession," which will arrive by messenger. It isn't specified what this possession might be, but Ezekial and everyone else immediately assumes it is something very valuable, and that he is now a wealthy man, so he is treated accordingly. Society swells throw a party in his honor, while some of the less scrupulous ones plan to rob him of his fortune. At the height of the party, two men in turbans show up and present Ezekial with an elaborately wrapped package. With much excitement all around the box is opened, but inside there is only a simple, unadorned ring. Everyone jumps to the conclusion that the ring is worthless. They promptly stop treating Ezekial as a rich man and depart, leaving only the schoolmarm, who loves him and believes the ring may have some value after all.

There's more to the story, but that's the gist of it. The plot has a familiar ring—Ah-HEM!—while the gags are none too original, either. The somewhat chubby Max Asher strikes me as a Roscoe Arbuckle type without the charisma, moderately engaging but not a strong comic lead, at least in this short. He especially suggests Arbuckle when he performs his farm chores, tending pigs and cows while wearing a three-piece suit and a derby. Billy Franey, as the uncle, is on hand to serve as a cantankerous foil to the lovers and to get his foot stomped repeatedly. But the real reason to watch this short is Gale Henry. I've seen her in a number of films over the years, both as a starring comic and a supporting player, and I invariably enjoy her work. She's the kind of eccentric, sprightly comedian who always gives something a little extra to every scene she's in, and even in a routine short like this one you can count on her to provide some laughs. At one point in this film, she and Ezekial attempt to elope (another familiar comic trope), and as Gale is about to leave her home, she briefly looks remorseful, and kisses the bedpost goodbye! That's the kind of weird, funny bit we can expect Miss Henry to contribute, and it's the sort of thing I enjoy about her scenes. In reading about her life I'm pleased to see that, unlike so many of her contemporaries, Gale Henry continued to find gainful employment in Hollywood for many years, even after she was no longer performing in front of the cameras. She and her husband Henry East worked behind the scenes as animal trainers, providing dogs for motion pictures. She certainly lived a long life, and I do hope she lived happily ever after, off screen.


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