The holiday season finds Jack and Edward as rivals for the hand of Helen Bower, whose mother is planning a holiday party. One of the Bower family's chauffeurs, Mulligan, is in despair over his wife's illness and his family's poverty. Jack and Edward both bring 'Santa Claus' suits to the party, where they expect to continue their rivalry. But meanwhile, Mulligan's desperation boils over, and he decides to do something drastic.Written by
Worldview Entertainment and the Killiam Collection has released a set of nine early movies about Christmas collectively called "A Christmas Past," with an original score by Al Kryszak. This movie is the sixth one, and has a running time of 16 minutes. See more »
This holiday-themed melodrama has an interesting combination of story elements. To some degree, they reflect ideas that were familiar at the time, and in another respect they provide an example of the ways that the era's film-makers were attempting to move beyond the kinds of simple stories characteristic of one-reel features. In this case, the story is a bit too ambitious for the running time, and it would have worked better at about twice the length. But it's an interesting effort.
The story sets up two parallel story lines: first, a romantic rivalry between two well-to-do young men, and second, the increasing despair of a working man over his wife's illness and his family's poverty. These two situations then intersect in a relatively lengthy party sequence that brings everyone together. To a large degree, the settings and subplots simply combine ideas that are familiar from many other movies of the time. What is different is the attempt to take an earnest but light-hearted romantic plot, and interweave it with a serious piece of social commentary.
There are a lot of characters, and one of the drawbacks of packing so much into a mere fifteen minutes or so is that some of the characters are never clearly distinguished from one another, nor are most of them given enough of an identity to make you feel that you know them. The only character who is well-defined is the desperate chauffeur, and that is accomplished by rather overt means. Through the mid-1910s and early 1920s, film-makers learned a great deal more about ways of better developing their characters before plunging them into the events of a complex story.
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