Friday, September 06, 2019

Tonight's Movies: The Shamrock Handicap (1926) and The Delicious Little Devil (1919) at Cinecon

Three of the nine feature films I saw at this year's Cinecon Classic Film Festival were silent films.

The first two silents, THE SHAMROCK HANDICAP (1926) and THE DELICIOUS LITTLE DEVIL (1919), were seen on Sunday, with CROOKED STREETS (1920) following on Monday. I enjoyed them all.

THE SHAMROCK HANDICAP was directed by John Ford, and it was fun to see him working with some of the "Irish" themes which are woven throughout his later work, especially, of course, THE QUIET MAN (1952).

The plot concerns Sir Miles O'Hara (Louis Payne), a member of the Irish gentry who has fallen on hard times and must sell off his stables. The kindly buyer, an American named Finch (Willard Louis), asks the estate's trainer Neil (Leslie Fenton) to come with him to America. Neil agrees, hoping to make his fortune and be able to marry Sir Miles' daughter Lady Sheila (Janet Gaynor).

The O'Hara family themselves later travel to America, where they discover Neil has suffered a crippling injury in a race. Sheila stands by Neil, and the entry of the best horse of them all, Dark Rosaleen, in a race might prove to be another chance for both Neil and the O'Hara finances.

This gentle film has the typical Fordian touches of both sentiment and humor, with J. Farrell MacDonald providing much of the comic relief as O'Hara's handyman and good friend Con O'Shea. Claire McDowell plays Con's wife Molly.

The lead characters' eventual return to Ireland brings both a chuckle and misty eyes as the film reaches its satisfying ending. A very enjoyable film.

IMDb says future cowboy star Bill Elliott had one of his very earliest extra roles in this, as a villager.

THE SHAMROCK HANDICAP was filmed by George Schneiderman. It runs 66 minutes.

THE DELICIOUS LITTLE DEVIL is a romantic comedy which called to mind a film released a decade later, Colleen Miller's WHY BE GOOD? (1929). The theme of each film is a "good" girl posing as a more worldly woman and the complications this eventually causes in her love life.

Mary McGuire (Mae Murray) is the sole support of her mother and ne'er-do-well uncle (Richard Cummings), who live in a New York tenement apartment. When Mary loses her job as a hat-check girl she applies for a job dancing at a roadhouse; she pretends to be the former mistress of a duke and as this "exotic" woman she becomes the nightclub's star sensation.

Wealthy Jimmy (Rudolph Valentino) falls in love with Mary; he's determined to marry her regardless of her "past." Jimmy's Irish father (Edward Jobson), who built his construction empire from nothing, wants his son to marry a good Irish girl and tries to show Jimmy he's making a mistake.

Then the real Duke shows up, who obviously will know Mary isn't his "ex"...and Mary's long-lost father (Harry L. Rattenberry) returns to the fold, and it just so happens he knew Jimmy's father back in the day. Complications and hilarity ensue.

This was such a fun 63 minutes, one of the highlights of the festival for me. It was rather amazing to think the audience was enthusiastically responding to performances filmed a century ago.

Valentino doesn't do a lot but look handsome, but Murray is absolutely marvelous, getting better and better as the movie goes on. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was left with a big smile on my face when the film reached its amusing and satisfying conclusion. A real treat!

This film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard. It was filmed by Allan Ziegler, who was also known as Allen G. Siegler; coincidentally he also filmed the next film I saw that day, MILLS OF THE GODS (1934).

April 2021 Update: THE DELICIOUS LITTLE DEVIL will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber this month. May 2021 Udpate: My review of the Blu-ray is here.

In between the silent films we saw a two-reeler short, ROOM MATES (1933) directed by George Stevens. Frank Albertson and Grady Sutton play college roommates who get married (to Dorothy Ward and June Clyde) and go to the same hotel on their honeymoons, with disastrous results. Not great, but it had some amusing moments and the print looked wonderful.

Coming soon: Reviews of MILLS OF THE GODS and FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1950).


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