Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Professor’s Romance (Vitagraph, 1914)

The Professors Romance screenshotThe Professor’s Romance (Vitagraph, 1914)
Directed by Sidney Drew
Starring Sidney Drew and Jane Morrow

Professor Cameron (Sidney Drew) is hard at work on his “great literary masterpiece” when Mrs. Merrileigh (Jane Morrow) moves into the neighboring house. She’s a widow with two young children — “Mother’s angels”, she calls them (Helen and Bobby Connelly). Cameron is smitten by Merrileigh at first sight and is hardly able to work without imagining the woman next door.

Likewise, the two hellions immediately declare war on the Professor. Their offensive escalates from putting firecrackers under his chair and drenching his romantic picnic with the garden hose to stealing his manuscript and burning it in the front yard. But the children’s efforts are self-defeating. Merrileigh, after learning what happened, goes to console Cameron. The Professor admits that maybe his book didn’t mean “more than anything else in the world” to him, and that maybe there was one thing that meant more.

Cameron and Merrileigh are embracing when the kids come bounding in with the news that what they burned wasn’t actually the manuscript. It was all pretend and the real papers were safely hidden all along.

As a one-reeler, it plays a bit too fast. There’s not enough material for a feature, but it could easily have filled two reels, and I’d have liked to have seen more of the budding romance and the children’s efforts to undermine it.

The characters are grounded in reality and their actions, though exaggerated, are entirely believable. They’re a much better fit for the Drews’ usual style of domestic comedy than the last Drew film I wrote about, Wanted:- A Nurse (1915). Only Cameron’s mischievous housekeeper, played by Ethel Lee, seems to act without purpose.

I enjoyed The Professor’s Romance (1914). It still doesn’t top Auntie’s Portrait (1915) as my favorite Drew short, but it is definitely one of the better ones.

My rating: I like it.

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Oh, Mama! (Educational, 1928)

Oh Mama screenshotOh, Mama! (Educational, 1928)
Directed by Jules White
Starring Jack Miller

Henry Hooper (Jack Miller) is on vacation, but his wife (Lucille Hutton) doesn’t intend for him to be idle. She insists he help with the spring cleaning, which he is loath to do. Failing to rouse him from bed herself, she sends her son (Jackie Levine) after Henry. The boy is Henry’s stepson and the two don’t appear to have any great fondness for one another.

Following that setup, there’s not much more story to speak of. The gags are divided between tired housekeeping-themed slapstick and Henry trying and failing to catch and spank the boy. They could really be put into any order – there’s precious little connecting one scene to the next. I’m writing this within an hour of having seen the film, and not a single gag stands out in my mind as being worth mentioning in particular. Needless to say, none were at all funny.

Oh, Mama! (1928) is a terrible film. My recommendation is to not waste your time on it.

My rating: I don’t like it.

The Paper Doll (Crystal, 1913)

The Paper Doll screenshotThe Paper Doll (Crystal, 1913)
Directed by Phillips Smalley
Starring Pearl White and Chester Barnett

Alice (Pearl White) has two suitors: George Clements (Chester Barnett) and Eugene Raynor (Joseph Belmont). Alice obviously prefers George and this is not lost on Eugene, so at the next garden party, Eugene has his sister attempt to seduce George. Alice becomes jealous and so starts to favor Eugene. A brief fight breaks out between the two rivals, putting an end to the party.

Alice coldly sends George away. He returns a few moments later only to find her and Eugene apparently in an intimate conference. He doesn’t stay long enough to see that she is actually in the process of dismissing him as well.

Eugene goes home, depressed at losing Alice – suicidally depressed, in fact. He’s just signed his suicide letter when a friend interrupts him. They speak for a few minutes until Eugene finds a way to get rid of him. As he’s walking away, the friend sees George enter Eugene’s house behind him.

George confronts Eugene. The gun comes out and a struggle ensues, ending in George being disarmed and sent away. Finally alone, Eugene can prepare for his suicide, but his plans are destined for failure, as when he drops the gun on the floor, it accidentally goes off and shoots him through the heart. Adding insult to injury, a gust of wind carries the letter out the window.

The police arrive and George is arrested for murdering Eugene. It looks bad at the trial – a known motive, witnessed at the crime scene, his recently fired gun found on the floor.

Meanwhile, Alice had been teaching her younger sister how to make paper dolls. Alice has been, naturally, affected by the recent events, and so to cheer her up, Sister shows her some of the dolls she’s made from scraps of found paper. Alice discovers that one has writing on it. After realizing what it is, she rushes to the court just in time to give the suicide letter to the judge, thus clearing George of the murder charge.

The film stumbles at bit at the start, jumping into the action without defining the characters sufficiently to tell them apart. Baldy Belmont is more comfortable in comedy – “Joseph Belmont” here struggles with being believably dramatic. Other than that, I rather liked it. It was nicely shot and competently edited. The paper dolls are setup well in advance of the pay off, so it doesn’t feel as contrived as it otherwise might. On the whole, the story hangs together and plays out naturally enough.

My rating: I like it.