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The First Auto (1927)

Passed | | Comedy | 18 September 1927 (USA)
Hank owns horses, stables horses and races horses. He favorite horse always wins and he is prosperous and will known. His son (Bob), however dreams only of the future of the horseless ... See full summary »


Roy Del Ruth


Anthony Coldeway (screen play), Jack Jarmuth (titles) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Russell Simpson ... Hank Armstrong
Frank Campeau ... Mayor Sam Robbins
Gibson Gowland ... The Blacksmith
Anders Randolf ... The Auctioneer
William Demarest ... Dave Doolittle
Paul Kruger ... Steve Bentley
Douglas Gerrard Douglas Gerrard ... Stebbins - Banker
Charles Emmett Mack ... Bob Armstrong (as Chas. E. Mack)
Patsy Ruth Miller ... Rose Robbins
Barney Oldfield ... Himself


Hank owns horses, stables horses and races horses. He favorite horse always wins and he is prosperous and will known. His son (Bob), however dreams only of the future of the horseless carriage and not of the horse. This causes problems between Hank and Bob. As the people in the town convert from horses to autos, Hank detests those who switch - so he looses his friends, his son Bob and finally his livery business. Bob leaves his flame Rose and goes to Detroit, gets involved with the auto industry and does very well. He does not forget Hank and promises to see him again, but Hank's hatred of the auto may cause the death of Bob. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Remember---when you used to stand for an hour watching a fellow crank his "Merry Oldsmobile"---when you used to help a fellow pump a tire for an hour, and the tire was still flat!---when the batteries were run down and you had to walk ten miles to get six more batteries---when the car wouldn't go and you finally found that the tank was empty--- See more »










Release Date:

18 September 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Primeiro Automóvel See more »

Filming Locations:

Riverside, California, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Vitaphone) (talking sequences, musical score, sound effects)| Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Charles Emmett Mack was killed in an auto accident that occurred while he was on his way to shoot a car chase for this film. See more »


As the film cuts between Hank and his friend watching the auto race, a pair of glasses appear on Hank's face, then disappear. See more »


Hank Armstrong: He talks like a damn fool!
See more »

Crazy Credits

"A Romance Of The Last Horse And The First Horseless Carriage" See more »


Edited into Gadgets Galore (1955) See more »


How Dry I Am
In the score at the celebration of Hank's racing victory
See more »

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User Reviews

the romance of what our Great Grandgrandparents laughed & cried at....
1 July 2005 | by whitlarksSee all my reviews

This movie is a nostalgic look back at another time. Both for us, here and now -- and for the audience it was originally made for in 1927. Just because both 1927 -- when the film was made -- and 1896-1906 -- the time-frame of the story -- are both behind us, we tend to jumble them together as being early 20th-Century, or "the past". Well -- 1896 was already the deep past for these filmmakers. They were looking backwards just as much as George Lucas was when he made "American Graffiti."

This is a patchwork of a film -- part comedy (including some old vaudeville routines. William Demerest and his clown companion are present for no other reason except comic relief. In vaudeville, the clowns in front of the curtain were there to mask the noise and movement of scenery and costume changes taking place on the stage behind the curtain.) Such clowning was obviously not necessary for the movies, but it's still there -- and we get to see what people were laughing at before stand-up monologue comedy was the only game in town.

The film is part melodrama as we see how a horse in the late 1890's could be the friend and companion of the pre-industrial era, and how the death of a man's horse could bring a man to tears. "A horse is loyal. A horse remembers! A horse knows what gratitude is!" -- words spoken by the father/livery owner who is then called a "Brute" (an animal) by his son.

With it's pre-talkie talking-and-scored soundtrack, it sometimes plays like a rough experiment in early film sound technologies (which exactly parallels the story of the first automobiles -- and how quickly they displaced the horse-centered life.) Within 3 years, silent pictures were as gone from the landscape as horse-drawn buggies. The equally experimental "special effects" fire in the engine of a moving race car isn't exactly the parting of the Red Sea -- but we still get the idea.

It also has the air of a headliner news-reel -- when surprise! Barney Oldfield, playing himself, races around the horse track so that all of America (at least those who went to the movies) could see him do what he was famous for -- speed racing!

At it's heart, however, this is a story. It is about family and about learning what matters (sometimes called family values), and of generations -- a father with both feet firmly planted in the pre-automobile age, and his son who is racing after the biggest technology of the time. They loose each other, almost loose everything else, and then find each other and move into the automobile age together -- where the father opens a car dealership and goes to the car races while the son spends his days at the horse shows. -- and "gosh, what's the world coming to next?" as a bi-plane soars overhead.

This is not a "great" movie -- but it is great fun, and a great window back both to 1927 and it's time of plenty before the stock market crashed us into the Depression; and to the 1927 recollection of 1896, when the lights of technology were just beginning to turn on. It is a wonderful piece of film history, now preserved for my great- and great-great grandchildren. --Thanks to all those doing film preservation -- we love it.

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