A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Patsy (King Vidor, 1928)

King Vidor is not generally known as a comedy director, and The Patsy shows why: Vidor seems to have no sense of how to set up a gag, merely letting the skilled comic acting of Marion Davies as the put-upon younger sister, Pat Hamilton, and Marie Dressler and Dell Henderson as her parents, do the work. The result is a giddy, silly movie with a good many laughs, but not much coherence. Pat is smitten with Tony Anderson (Orville Caldwell), but her sister, Grace (Jane Winton) has her hooks in him -- until, that is, she starts running around with playboy Billy Caldwell (Lawrence Gray). Pat tries to win Tony by memorizing joke books -- for a silent film The Patsy is unusually heavy on gags in the intertitles -- but this only makes her parents, especially her domineering mother, think she's gone mad. Then she tries to make Tony jealous by pretending that she's in love with Billy, arriving at his house when he's drunk and trying to woo him by imitating movie stars like Mae Murray, Lillian Gish, and Gloria Swanson. Davies's skill and charm makes all of this palatable if not plausible, but almost every scene is stolen by Dressler, who uses face and body to upstage everyone. Vidor and Davies teamed again the same year for Show People, another comedy.

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