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Henry B. Walthall
An obvious cheapie hampered by one-take shots, this oft used mother-with-a-past melodrama is replete with satisfying set pieces.
The quality of performances keep viewer interest and account for my vote on the high side of 5. Clara Kimball Young, bravely baring her frumpish form in backless dresses, delivers an excellent job as Faro Lil, a gambler of mythical dimensions. Her sordid past threatens to poison her son's social climb, as she must resume that career thanks to the plunging stock market. As her son, Jeff, actor Bruce Warren does a fine job. Their first reunification scene has a fresh and personal quality to it, almost ad-libbed. And they'll close the picture memorably, in silent movie style.
The technical aspects of production are ambitious meets cheap. A rare example of the Balsley And Phillips sound system [I can find only 19 features credited], the soundtrack is clear and well modulated. The main set is the gambling hall: walls of rough-hewn planks fit the "old west" motif and the miniscule budget. A long dollying shot to establish the club's setting dips and wobbles so much the viewer might want to keep the Dramamine handy. Typical to Monogram (Trem Carr), a sequence will be done in one shot, with quick pans to a door as characters enter, then quick pans back so the film edits more quickly. There is one shot of Ms. Young that is splendidly lit, and for a moment you see she's still very beautiful. However, it only serves to damn the rest of the lighting schemes which are too contrasty. In a crucial gambling scene, the shot deliberately obscures the mechanics of the game, ruining a well acted climax.
I wish this studio had put a little more care into its films. There are fine moments tucked between takes that should have been reshot. For talkie buffs, only.
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