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It's the Old Army Game (1926)

Passed | | Adventure, Comedy, Romance | 11 July 1926 (USA)
Druggist Elmer Prettywillie is sleeping. A woman rings the night bell only to buy a two-cent stamp. Then garbage collectors waken him. Next it's firemen on a false alarm. And then a real fire.

Writers:

J.P. McEvoy (play) (as Joseph P. McEvoy), W.C. Fields (play) | 4 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
W.C. Fields ... Elmer Prettywillie
Louise Brooks ... Mildred Marshall
Blanche Ring ... Tessie Overholt
William Gaxton ... George Parker
Mary Foy ... Sarah Pancoast
Mickey Bennett ... Mickey
Josephine Dunn ... Society Bather
Jack Luden ... Society Bather
George Currie George Currie ... Artist
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Storyline

Elmer Pettywillie is the owner of a small drug store in Florida, and Mildred Marshall is his clerk. Business is slow until George Delevan leases space in the store to sell New York real estate. Business is good, especially for George, but the sheriff comes looking for him and he departs the premises for places unknown. Elmer feels that he has been an unknowing accomplice in a con-game, and he heads for New York in his old Ford. But he heads in the wrong direction, gets lost a few times, gives up and starts back to his drugstore. Many townsmen are rushing toward him as he drives up the street, but they are running to congratulate him as George as returned bearing profits for all the local investors. All is well, other than Elmer ending up as a very reluctant fourth-party in a double-wedding ceremony. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Putting "reverse English" on the real estate game-selling New York lots in Florida-"The old army game" with modern touches. A new type of screen comedy with W. C. Fields of "Follies" fame as chief laughmaker. (Print ad- DeRuyter Glear ((DeRuyter, N. Y.)) 12 May 1927)


Certificate:

Passed
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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

11 July 1926 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Old Army Game See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Quotes

George Parker: [title card] I'd like to put my real estate display in your window. I'm president of the High-and-Dry Realty Company - I want to use your window for a display.
Mildred Marshall: [title card] It might help our business, too.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Arena: Louise Brooks (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Silent Fields, and a radiant Louise Brooks
18 November 2001 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

W.C. Fields was never at his best in the silent film medium, but It's the Old Army Game is nonetheless a treat for his fans, revealing our hero in characteristic form as he offers early versions of routines later perfected in talkie classics The Pharmacist and It's a Gift. The Great Man himself looks quite youthful here, still trim in his mid-40s and quite stylish in his checked trousers and straw boater, although he also sports the unfortunate mustache he wore in all his silent comedies. Like The Cocoanuts, the stage vehicle and subsequent movie debut for The Marx Brothers, the plot of this film was inspired by the Florida land boom, a highly topical subject in the 1920s. It's the Old Army Game is built around a satirical twist, however: instead of New Yorkers snapping up cheap land in Florida, we find Florida residents snapping up cheap real estate in New York! In any case, Fields' movies were never valued for their plots, it's the gag sequences that count. This film's highlights include our hero's repeatedly thwarted attempts to take a nap on his back porch, a rather nasty confrontation with an obnoxious baby in a stroller, a very messy picnic on the lawn of a ritzy estate, and traffic difficulties filmed on location in midtown Manhattan. The porch bit is something of a dry run for the immortal sequence in It's a Gift, but here's where the silent version suffers in comparison to the talkie remake: much of the humor depends on abrupt, irritating bursts of noise, so by its very nature this routine, which was first performed on stage, wasn't ideal for silent cinema.

Incidentally, during the traffic sequence Fields has an encounter with a fellow motorist who is done up in stereotypical Jewish costume, complete with derby and grizzled beard. Happily, and surprisingly, their encounter turns out to be benign, without the heavy-handed ethnic humor that mars so many comedies of the period. The gent in the derby owns a junk wagon pulled by a mule, and when Fields has auto trouble the gent tries to help out. The situation does not end happily for our hero, but that's no one's fault but his own.

Broadway buffs will be interested to find that the leading man is William Gaxton, best known for his stage performance in the Gershwin musical "Of Thee I Sing," but Gaxton never had much of a movie career and frankly doesn't register strongly in this role. Then again, he was up against formidable competition, not only from Fields but from his leading lady, Louise Brooks. A major bonus of this film is the sight of this beautiful young woman in her prime. There's a memorable scene featuring Brooks and Gaxton skipping a picnic so they can romp in the woods. Every close-up of Louise is worth the price of admission-- that is, if you can find a copy of this movie in the first place. Like all too many W.C. Fields films, It's the Old Army Game is not readily available in any home-viewable format. I saw it about ten years ago at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. We were told before the screening that the film was still in the process of restoration, "a work in progress" soon to be completed. For the first hour or so the image looked clean and bright, but then suddenly we found ourselves watching a heavily scratched and yellowed 16mm print for the last portion. I hope the restoration work was completed, but haven't heard of any public screenings since. In any case, here's a film ripe for recovery and rediscovery!


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