Silent movies relied upon facial exaggeration, and few faces could top those of multitalented Marion Davies, showcased from slapstick to heartbreak to horror in The Red Mill, deftly directed by William Goodrich, alias Fatty Arbuckle. Like Cinderella, barmaid Tina (Davies) toils under her villainous boss at a small-town tavern, where she scrubs floors by strapping brushes to her skates and keeps a pet mouse inside a wooden shoe. Hope and love's promise beckon in the handsome form of Dennis (Owen Moore), until he falls in love with Tina's girlfriend Gretchen (Louise Faenda), shackled in a looming pre-arranged marriage. Davies herself lobbied for Arbuckle, blackballed because of an earlier scandal - but as it turns out, an excellent choice for embellishing the hilarious comedy bits and the ensuing tragic scenes at the climax inside the haunted mill.
This lavish adaptation of Victor Herbert's operetta The Red Mill proved to be one of Marion Davies' most delightful and best-received silent vehicles. Davies is cast as Dutch barmaid Tina, who falls in love with handsome hero Dennis (Owen Moore). Alas, Dennis doesn't return her affections, whereupon Tina mounts a campaign to win his heart -- while simultaneously smoothing the romantic path for her friends, burgomeister's daughter Gretchen (Louise Fazenda) and army captain Jacob (Karl Dane). There's a bit of comic suspense when Tina -- disguised for plot purposes as Gretchen -- is accidentally locked in the titular mill, which is rumored to be haunted, but she manages to escape in time for a happy denouement. Beyond its romantic trappings, THE RED MILL is full of wonderful slapstick moments, notably an opening scene in which the heroine tries her luck on ice skates, only to wind up covered in snow from head to foot. The film was directed by one "William Goodrich", actually a pseudonym for rotund comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, whose film career had been destroyed five years earlier in the wake of a messy scandal (Davies was endeavoring to help Arbuckle make a comeback -- even though her publisher boyfriend William Randolph Hearst had been largely responsible for his downfall!) It has long been assumed that the public was totally unaware that Goodrich and Arbuckle were one in the same, but contemporary reviews of THE RED MILL indicate that William Goodrich's true identity was an open secret.
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