Sunday, October 08, 2023

The Fox

Robert Thornby: The Fox (US 1921) starring Harry Carey (Santa Fe).

(Lišák) (US 1921) dir: Robert Thornby. story: Harry Carey. scen: Lucien Hubbard. photog: William Fildew. cast: Harry Carey (Santa Fe), Breezy Eason Jr. (“Socio”/Pard), George Nichols (Sheriff Fraser), Johnny Harron (Dick Farwell), Betty Ross Clarke (Annette Fraser), Gertrude Claire (Mrs. Farwell), Gertrude Olmstead (Stella Fraser), Alan Hale (Rufus B. Coulter, banker), George Cooper (“K. C” Kid), Charles Le Moyne (Black Mike), C. E. Anderson (Rollins), Harley Chambers (Hubbs). prod: Universal-Jewel. rel: 15.10.1921. copy: 35 mm, 1788 m/5866 ft (orig. l: 6,941 ft), 78' (20 fps); titles: CZE. source: Národni filmový archiv, Praha.
    Unreleased in Finland.
    Grand piano: Philip Carli.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Harry Carey, 8 Oct 2023.

Richard Abel (GCM 2023): " Universal billed The Fox as a Jewel “Super-Western,” with a “perfect Western atmosphere,” “a good, interesting story,” and “thrilling situations.” “Suitable for both young and old,” a trade press reviewer exclaimed: “It is the old ‘Broncho’ and ‘K-B’ type [Kessel and Baumann’s “Kay-Bee” brand from ten years earlier] brought up to date.” "

" Looking like a tramp, Santa Fe turns up in “a small desert dream town,” just as a judge is yelling at Sheriff Fraser for not doing enough to deal with the terrorizing “Painted Cliffs” gang. After a comic run-in with a boy he soon calls “Pard,” Santa Fe accidentally hits a local grocer, and Fraser locks them both up in jail. But he relents and tries to get him a job: first at the Caliente Bank, where he overhears the president, Coulter, admit to a deficit in the books, and then at what passes for a restaurant, where he and Black Mike and two other gang members get into a fight that nearly destroys the place. Coulter decides to frame the bank teller, Farwell, and has the gang kidnap him, holing him up in their Painted Cliffs hideaway. While Pard stays with the sheriff ’s daughter Annette, Santa Fe follows Fraser, who has gone searching for Farwell in a sandstorm. After Fraser is injured and sent back to town, Santa Fe soldiers on, climbs the cliffs, and finds and rescues Farwell. Late in the film, two surprising plot twists (one reveals the reason for the title) lead Santa Fe, Fraser a posse, and lots of other horsemen to the Painted Cliffs, where they battle at length with the gang. After the gang’s capture, Santa Fe corners Coulter before he can flee, and all ends happily, as it has to, for Santa Fe, Pard, Farwell, Fraser, Annette, and her sister Stella. "

" This “dream town” is little more than a single dirt street framed by a series of buildings that include not only the bank, sheriff ’s office, and “restaurant,” but also, strangely, a “library” reading room, where Black Mike and his drunken fellows create more mayhem. In the last three reels, The Fox makes terrific use of the barren landscapes and complex cliff formations of the Mojave Desert. The film also stages a familiar stunt as Fraser and his horse tumble down a long, steep slope, resulting in his wrenched shoulder. Marking the “up to date” Western action are an automobile for Coulter and several machine guns for both sides in the climactic battle. These weapons place the story sometime after the Great War, and, along with one of the plot twists, give it a patriotic edge, concluding with Pard’s assumed future at a military school. Much like earlier Carey westerns, The Fox downplays the romance involving Annette, and instead continually foregrounds Santa Fe’s friendships with Pard and Fraser and his face-offs with Coulter, Black Mike, and the rest of the Painted Cliffs gang. "

" After The Fox wrapped came an unexpected tragedy. Child actor Breezy Eason Jr. (Pard) was run down by an automobile and died, apparently in Carey’s arms, as he was the first to reach him. " – Richard Abel

AA: The Fox has some striking observations of Western realism, including scenes of poverty. Harry Carey plays a tramp character, happy to accept odd jobs including as a waiter. "Nobody knows where he comes from, nobody cares". Like in Blue Streak McCoy, a little boy is an important character, Harry Carey appearing as a father figure who teaches him how to defend himself.

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