US / 58 minutes / bw / Conn Dir: Leslie Goodwins Pr: Maurice Conn Scr: Joseph O’Donnell, Stanley Roberts, Arthur Duriam Story: “The New Freedom” (1927, Cosmopolitan; vt “For His Money”) by Peter B. Kyne Cine: John Kline Cast: Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, Charlotte Henry, William Costello, David Sharpe, Carlton Young (i.e., Carleton Young), Pat Gleason, Frank Austin, Frank Sarasino, Earl Dwire.
The government is clamping down on gold hoarding, and the gang ostensibly headed by Flash Slavin (Costello) is using the situation to mount a racket. When Flash’s sidekicks Butch Barker (Gleason) and Spike Dolan (Young) murder a gold smuggler rather than pay his price, the State Troopers are soon on the case.
New to the Troopers that day is Johnny Shields (Sharpe), to the delight of his sister Jane (Henry) and her fiancé Corporal Tom Marlin (Richmond), another Trooper; Johnny’s kid brother Freddie (Darro) feigns ennui, but is soon running a campaign of his own to catch the crooks.
The next victim of Butch and Spike is Johnny . . . a demise that, bizarrely, appears to affect Freddie, Jane and Tom not at all, for that evening they’re clowning and joking just like always! Obviously, Freddie and Tom eventually snare the bad guys, Jane conveniently disappearing (bridge night, perhaps?) when her presence might hamper events.
The intent is clearly to give the character played by ex-child actor, ex-silents star Darro an appealing irrepressible-trickster quality, but he comes across as merely brattish—and also as far older than the teenager he’s supposed to be (he was 20 by now). Story and screenplay tend toward the clichéd—it’s hardly a surprise when the gang’s real boss proves to be the Shields’s purportedly crippled lodger Endebury (Austin). The dialogue has on occasion a certain naive charm, as when Spike tells elderly simpleton farmer Finnegan (Dwire): “Listen, whiskerpuss, don’t move from this spot or I’ll plug ya!” There’s a fairly depressing lack of ambition on display: the moviemakers seem to have aimed only as high as mediocrity and been perfectly content to fall short of that target. For Henry it was a long way down from such roles as Alice in the all-star Alice in Wonderland (1933).
Author Peter B. Kyne was best known for his The Three Godfathers (1913), which has been adapted for the screen a number of times, most famously as 3 Godfathers (1948) dir John Ford, with John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz and Harry Carey Jr.
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