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The Secret of the Palm (IMP, 1911)

The Secret of the Palm screenshotThe Secret of the Palm (IMP, 1911)
Directed by Joseph Smiley
Starring Joseph Smiley and King Baggot

After the first viewing, I found The Secret of the Palm (1911) to be completely incomprehensible. I had no idea what it was even about, much less what was going on in the plot. I immediately watched it a second time, but was no less confused. I set the film aside for a while and came back later with fresh eyes, and still all I got from it was that seemingly unrelated things happen for no reason to people I have no idea who are, then some guy falls out of a palm tree and the film is over.

To Moving Picture News!

All right, IMP published a synopsis of their film in the trade journals to bamboozle entice exhibitors into booking it. According to their synopsis, the film is about a Spaniard named Don Alvarez (Joseph Smiley) who is sent to work on a fruit ranch in Cuba owned by Canby, a man his mother was school friends with. Canby’s daughter, Edna, is in love with Cecil Abbott (King Baggot), the ranch foreman. Don is “smitten by her charms” and jealous of the attention she shows to Cecil, so when Cecil goes into town to get the mail, Don stealthily steals the mail pouch and hides it at the top of a palm tree. Cecil is accused of the theft and is fired. Don is promoted to foreman. On the next mail day, Don gets a letter from his mother that said she sent him money in her last letter. Don scrambles up the tree to retrieve it, but falls afterward. He’s found by Cecil, who takes him back to the ranch, where he exonerates Cecil before dying.

I defy you to get any of that from the picture — even one single line. I’ve seen my share of incoherent films before, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a nonsensical assemblage of scenes amounting to absolutely nothing. This makes As a Boy Dreams (1911) look like a masterpiece of filmmaking that’s brilliance will never be topped.

My rating: I don’t like it.