Ben Harding is a terrific pitcher for a small-town amateur baseball team. When the Minneapolis Pink Sox, a major-league team, is delayed in his town, Ben's team plays a scrub game against them and the Pink Sox are astonished to see this amateur strike out their best batters. Ben is given a contract with the Pink Sox but his experience in the big city on a major-league team changes him into a rude and pompous lout. Only when his good fortune is reversed does Ben have a chance to right himself.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If this represents the level of quality of Charles Ray's films (and I'll bet it does; it comes from Thomas Ince's well-oiled factory) I can readily understand his stardom. The movie is very well made, and very well directed by Jerome Storm, whom I've never heard of, but the man directed at least 47 films between 1917 and 1932, and he did a nice job here.
Ray himself is delightful. He's cute as a button (you just want to put him in your pocket) and very skilled. He was also quite good playing a continental rake in The Garden of Eden, so the man had some versatility. So what the hell happened with Ray? I can understand his star falling, but why wasn't he able to transition to decent second leads and character parts? He couldn't even have been a wisecracking sidekick? He looks perfect for it.
Colleen Moore is a breath of spring here, as usual. Moore illustrates the odd fact about the silent era that you can play lead after lead for years and not be considered a star but merely an "artist." She needed the China doll hair to make her stand apart, and to find her "wholesome flapper" niche.
As for Gilbert, this was when he was doing anything and everything for Ince, and he's the spoiled rich boy here. I've seen it alleged that Gilbert without the mustache didn't register somehow, but I don't find that true here at all. He looks dreamy, and of course there's nothing wrong with his acting in this small part.
It's a very outdoorsy film (well, it's a baseball picture) and the movie gets the small town ambiance very well: chickens flapping around the homestead; a municipal baseball field; a tacky little local movie house; the arrival of a telegram inevitably assumed to mean a death. The brief big city scenes are well done as well, and there is a handsome urban hotel lobby in one scene.
This is the kind of non-slapstick (but still with a physical component) comedy of manners that hasn't endured from the silents as easily as the comedies of the silent clowns (it's the kind of movie Swanson was making with Bobby Vernon's unit for Sennett before the unit was dissolved and she was suddenly being asked to learn pratfalls). It's gentle and sweet and quietly amusing. Glad it has survived, and been restored so nicely.
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