Sunday, February 5, 2012

7 Keys to Baldpate (1917)

First version of the classic tale of a writer going to Baldpate Inn to write a hit novel in a 24 hour period is real kick in the pants. It’s a surprisingly good little film that reveals George M Cohan as one heck of a fine film actor.

The plot has Cohan’s pulp mystery writer taking a bet and going up to secluded hotel to write a novel in 24 hours. The idea is that he will be alone and away from any distractions- after all he has the only key to the place. That isn’t true and all sorts of mysterious folk come wandering through.

The film is based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers who wrote Charlie Chan and it was turned into a huge Broadway hit by Cohan. The play was the source of numerous film adaptations some of which I reviewed here.

This is to the best of knowledge the first version and it’s blessed with Cohan in the lead. I never really had any contact with Cohan other than the odd photograph or Yankee Doodle Dandy and seeing him here is a revelation. Its clear why he was a big star since he manages to hold the screen with an ease that is rare. Most amazing is that his style of acting is very naturalistic and not prone to the typical silent movie flourishes that often date silent films.

One of the other joys of the film is that the film feels like it was filmed in the various locations. Every location seems to be a real place, from the newspaper office, to the gentleman’s club and even Baldpate it self they all seem like real places. This is important because all of the other versions I’ve seen seem set bound. It’s the big room in Baldpate manor and very few other locations, if at all.

Honestly this is one of the best versions of the story I’ve seen, with the only flaw being that the film gets over crowded with people in the second half. Granted this is how the story goes, but as you’ll see, if you see this version, it seems like a small army is marching through Baldpate inn.

Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

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