In the Doug Fairbanks vehicle HIS PICTURE IN THE PAPERS, directed by John Emerson and co-written with Mrs. Emerson — Anita Loos, the more talented half of the team — Fairbanks plays the heir to a vegetarian health food empire who prefers martinis, pugilism and roast beef to his fathers diet of “perforated peas” and “toasted tootsies.”
To effect the traditional meet cute, the plot has Doug sneak off to a restaurant to enjoy a steak, where he will encounter the leading lady, also a supposed veggie, also moonlighting as a meat-eater.
Oddly, though the film is shameless propaganda for the carnivorous cause, depicting herbivores as timid and bloodless creatures, effete and un-American, photographically speaking it makes the greens look more appealing, even though they’re robbed of greenness in the b&w image. Doug’s dish, on the other hand, looks pretty disgusting onscreen, its natural colour leeched away. in his enthusiasm, Doug contrives to exacerbate the problem — in a typical bit of silent-movie actorly business, he tries to gesture excitedly at the meat in the insert shot, his fingers protruding into frame and seemingly giving the slab of flesh an affectionate pat.
Who does that?
A lot of Doug’s eating-acting is similarly overdone, with facial expressions more appropriate to a soul in torment than a man enjoying a slap-up beanfeast. This may be why his reputation has survived more as a performer of impressive stunts than as a performative gourmand.
Also featuring Erich Von Stroheim as “One of the Weazels.”