LITTLE OLD NEW YORK (1923) – A DVD Review by John Strange
Between 1917 and 1937 Marion Davies appeared in 51 short or feature films. Little Old New York, made in 1922 and premiered in 1923, was one of Marion Davies’ starring vehicles that truly showed off just how good this actress was. It followed her hit When Knighthood Was in Flower from 1922 (also from Undercrank Productions and also reviewed by Selig Film News).
Little Old New York is a drama filled with names straight out of the history books. Among the characters are John Jacob Astor (Andrew Dillon), Washington Irving (Mahlon Hamilton), Cornelius Vanderbilt (Sam Hardy), and Robert Fulton (Courtenay Foote).
Our story revolves around the death of a self-made Irish-immigrant millionaire, Richard O’Day, and the money he leaves in his will. The executor of the will, John J. Astor, is as surprised as the expected recipient of the largess, Larry Delevan (Harrison Ford – No, NOT the Han Solo actor), when the will details that the bulk of the money is to go to the son of his brother left behind in Ireland as a gesture of reconciliation. Larry, Richard O’Day’s stepson is granted Richard’s house plus $500 per month to cover his role as Pat O’Day’s sole guardian.
The recipient of the money, Patrick O’Day, is found in Ireland with just enough time to reach New York and receive his inheritance. However, he does not live to reach his destination and John O’Day (J.M. Kerrigan), his father and the dear departed’s brother, insists that PATRICIA O’Day (Marion Davies) pretend to be her brother so that he won’t be beaten out of the money from his brother!
While this story is playing out, complete with the original recipient, Larry Delevan, being a horses’ backside over his forced role as Pat’s guardian, we are witnesses to life in New York at the turn of the nineteenth century and the trials and travails inventor Robert Fulton probably went through to bankroll the completion of his first steam-powered ship, the Clermont.
An interesting fact is that producer William Randolph Hearst (yes, THAT Hearst!) had an exact replica of the Clermont built, as well as detailed costumes and sets for the film. The outside sets even included a part of the New York waterfront. The film was shot primarily at his Cosmopolitan-International studio on 127th Street which was one of the most important production facilities of the time.
This film has flaws, at least to modern eyes. The addition of slapstick was de-rigor in that day and time but is toned down greatly in movies today. The beautiful Marion Davies being able to pull off being a boy for another. But the script and acting are strong and the story flows well. The title cards are well-timed and easy to read quickly.
Perhaps the most interesting addition to the film’s storyline was the boxing match between “Bully Boy Brewster” (Harry Watson Jr.) and “The Hoboken Terror (Louis Wolheim). Bully Boy Brewster plays one of the area’s volunteer firemen while the Hoboken Terror is just a brawler, albeit an undefeated one. This addition gave the filmmakers the opportunity to reveal “Pat’s” true gender and segue into the climactic scenes of the film.
The bonus extra on this DVD is Hold Fast (1916), one of a series of shorts starring Harry Watson Jr. Watson, who headlined in the Ziegfeld Follies between 1907 and 1912 starred in the series as the title character Musty Suffer. He acted in this film and one other which starred Miss Davies.
What we get to see is four minutes of a six-minute short (third in the series), primarily showing us a boxing match/skit like the ones that Watson and his partner George Bickel performed in the Follies. It is a pretty decent example of a slapstick boxing match.
As with most of the titles presented by Undercrank Productions, both of these titles were preserved by the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The original production company for the film Little Old New York was The Cosmopolitan Corporation, and the film was distributed in 1923 by Goldwyn-Cosmopolitan.
As with many silent films I watch, this film has a very good cast and a very good script. I really enjoyed watching the story unfold over the 108-minute production. If you are a fan of silent films in general and especially fans of Miss Davies, I can certainly recommend this title to you!
- Sidney Olcott
- Marion Davies, with Harrison Ford, Harry Watson, Jr., Louis Wolheim, Courtenay Foote, Mahlon Hamilton, Sam Hardy, Andrew Dillon, Charles Kennedy, Charles Judels, Gypsy O’Brien
- HOLD FAST (1916) – excerpt
- Director: Louis Myll
- Starring Harry Watson, Jr. and George Bickel
- new musical score: Ben Model
- Running time: 6 mins
- Original Release Date: March 15, 1916
- 108 Minutes
- 6 Minutes
- Ben Model
- Undercrank Productions
Bonus Features Rating:
Picture Quality Rating:
- A (remembering that this is a restored print from almost one hundred years ago, the picture is nearly perfect!)
Audio Quality Rating:
- A (music score)
Selig Rating Scale:
BRAND NEW: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost
SALE ITEM: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale
SECOND HAND: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used
RENTAL: Worth taking a look at, but not owning
COASTER: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks
PULL!: Makes a great Trap Shooting target