The Sunday Intertitle: Go East, Young Man!

From MANHATTAN MADNESS, directed by Allan Dwan, where Doug Fairbanks complains of the inferior quality of violence available to the sophisticated gentleman in New York, as opposed to the prairies of Nevada.

Doug has come East to negotiate the sale of some horses to the mysterious Count Winkie (a man so mysterious he hasn’t considered changing his name), and finds himself the recipient of a crazy plot involving kidnapping and much athletic climbing about on the outside of a house.

After the visual splendor and economy of A MODERN MUSKETEER, this one seemed unambitious and primitive, but then it was made a year earlier — during which time Dwan honed his craft on twelve or so movies. Also, my copy of this one played much too fast, rendering the fisticuffs chaotic and the cutting stroboscopic. Perhaps post-1916 re-editing was also to blame, since the IMDb gives Winkie’s name as the more sensible Marinoff. Somebody may have tried to turn this from light comedy adventure into slapstick farce. Weirdly, the plot felt like five minutes’ work, while the intertitles seemed redolent with wit and likely the product of long hours’ cogitation. A strange set of priorities, somebody had.

Still, Doug is as irrepressible as ever, and winks at the audience at least three times, which is good enough for me. He is the real Count Winkie, and the biggest media winker prior to Superman.  I’m working my way up to the really celebrated Fairbankses — THIEF OF BAGDAD, ROBIN HOOD, THE GAUCHO, THE IRON MASK, WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY…


11 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Go East, Young Man!”

  1. Christopher Says:

    Having not seen this….Its always interesting to see how “wild western”characters were viewed in a time just emerging from the wild west..Totally differen’t than what you see in Westerns of the late 40s-60s
    The bizzare quirks of the Spaghetti Western aren’t too far off the mark..

  2. Allan Dwan certainly hung out with plenty of cowboys in the early days, and even twirled a side-iron himself to drive off patent company gangsters. So the rambunctiousness he portrays is pretty authentic.

  3. Christopher Says:

    drugs,smugglars,gangsters,gadgets,technology are things later filmakers just didn’t seem to think fit into Western films..guess you just had to be there…
    I was just looking at Allan Dawn’s extrordinary directing career…an incredible variety even before 1930…Shrirley Temple,the Ritz Brothers,Gorillas?? problem..

  4. And two of those are in the same film!

    When Bogdanovich told Welles in the 70s that he was interviewing Dwan, Welles was astounded — “Is HE still around?”

    Manhattan Madness is inferior to A Modern Musketeer, but the few western scenes do include one of his dizzying perspectives with extreme distant action and foreground action at once. He gets some really impressive shots that way. I’d like to see some later westerns by him for comparison.

  5. Christopher Says:

    I’ll bet one of my later guilty pleasures,The River’s Edge from 1957,which is a modern drama in western-desert setting,is more like one of those Dwan 1911 westerns ,than Cattle Queen of Montana!THo several of those teen,pre-teen Titles do suggest a romantic look back to another era,Call of the Open Range,The Cattle Theif’s Brand etc..Many more I suspect are contemporary dramas using the natural surroundings of the day…a very small town on the boom…As for action shots, you gotta know that much of what they got away with when they were cranking those things out and minds were young,ideas were fresh,they couldn’t get away with in later big studio days,with studio bosses and tempermental actors cramping their style..A stunt in Cinemascope a big whoop one timer,probably not as impressive as in the days of fast and furious filmmaking..

  6. Well, back in those days the stuntmen were all cowboys who took absurd risks, and the filmmakers killed dozens of them! Brownlow and Gill’s Hollywood series has an episode on this. One stunt in an icy river killed ten at one go.

  7. Christopher Says:

    I’d a loved to have lived then and got in on the ground floor on the early days of film making in California..Must have been fun,as long as you weren’t looked at as expendable!..heh…Even so..who cares?…looks like a blast..

  8. “It was a dollar a day and a box lunch,” or words to that effect.

  9. Christopher Says:

    dollar a lunch..and a wealth of opportunity

  10. Immortality or death! Possibly both.

  11. Christopher Says:

    comedians with missing limbs..One eyed Directors…I’m encouraged..

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