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Idealistic farm boy Peter loves Amy whose fancy is urbane Harry. He discovers Harry is a rum runner and turns him over to prohibition agents, including Jane. May is at last impressed with Peter.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
THE BOOB (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1926), directed by William A. Wellman, a long forgotten silent comedy, made its television premiere on Turner Classic Movies April 3, 2003, as part of its "Directors Under 30" spotlight, along with a piano score by a young composer named Arthur Barrow. Although feature billing goes to Gertrude Olmstead, the story relatively belongs to George K. Arthur playing in the title role.
The opening title card start off with "The same old story," in which a young country girl named Amy (Gertrude Olmstead) is seen sitting on a velvet swing smooching with Harry Benson (Antonio D'Arcy), a city slicker, by Peter B. Good (George K. Arthur), a rustic farm hand who happens to be in love with her. Suspicious of this man who not only wants to marry Amy, but wanting to meet at the Booklovers Club, Peter learns that Harry might be a bootlegger involved in illegal doings in the Wyoming town near his farm. To prove to Amy and to himself that he is not a weakling, or in other words, a "Boob" (the then slang term for today's description of a "jerk") as he is made up to be, Peter, after failing to make an impression by wearing some outlandish cowboy clothes, decides to become a prohibition agent and obtain proof that this city slicker is not on the level with her. After getting into the Booklovers Club, Peter not only notices the club members there drinking from the books (where the liquor is kept), but encounters a woman named Jane (Joan Crawford) who might either be one of the "club members" or a secret agent.
THE BOOB has the distinction of being a film that combines the elements of the works of directors D.W. Griffith (the country boy trying to make good) and Mack Sennett (comic characters and a car chasing scene), but fails on both levels. What makes this particular one hour length comedy of sole interest today is an early screen appearance of future screen legend, Joan Crawford, whose character doesn't make her first screen appearance until thirty minutes from the start of the film. Almost unrecognizable, she does obtain a screen presence that stands apart from the other actors. George K. Arthur, a young comic relief-type of MGM silents during the 1920s, who somewhat resembles future film actor, Jack Haley, performs his task well, but had this same character been played by the likes of the more popular comic, Buster Keaton (two years away from becoming an MGM contract player), chances are he would have developed his yokel boy into something special. Arthur appeared in other MGM films, usually teamed opposite the tall Karl Dane, but because their films haven't been seen since their initial releases, Arthur and Dane, separately or together, have become obscure names from Hollywood's past. They both faded by the advent of talkies.
Also seen in the supporting cast are Charles Murray as Cactus Jim, sporting a droopy mustache that makes him resemble another silent screen comic of the time, Snub Pollard; Hank Mann as the Village Soda Jerk; and Babe London briefly seen as the Fat Girl. Interestingly, there is another character in the story who is given enough screen time to warrant his name in the casting credits, but doesn't. He's a little black boy characterized as Ham Bunn who accompanies George K. Arthur, along with a little dog, throughout the film.
THE BOOB, which has fortunately survived after all these years, while many other silent movies from this era have vanished to dust, for all it's worth, is still a worthy offering and a real curio at best. And Arthur Barrow should also be commended for supplying this forgotten little item with a satisfactory piano score to help this movie along. THE BOOB will never be regarded as a sort-after comedy masterpiece, but a place in cinema history as a surviving silent film featuring Joan Crawford, or one of the early works of director William A. Wellman, and nothing else. (**)
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