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Ida May Park
A judge who had taken part in the gold rush of 1849 hires an acting troupe to recreate the experience in this rather fanciful silent Western. The make-believe turns serious when a real gold-mine is discovered nearby and a local girl is kidnapped by a nasty gambler.Written by
The first Western to be directed by a woman. See more »
Everybody was pleased except Tom - for what business has a penniless young man making love to an heiress?
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Kino International Corp. copyrighted and released a video in 2000, produced by Jessica Rosner with a piano score composed and performed by Jon Mirsalis. It was made from a Library of Congress preservation print and runs 63 minutes. See more »
I'd like to hear the story of how this mess of a movie came to be. The home video description goes out of the way to call it a parody, but a viewing offers no support of this. No, rather, this is the kind of film that deserves to be parodied. Part of the story is similar to another 1917 Western, Douglas Fairbanks's "Wild and Woolly", which was intentionally comical. In both films, a fake Western town is made to please the notions of a man from New York of the old West. As opposed to "Wild and Woolly", however, the old judge in this picture knows it's fake because he planned it--in an attempt to relive his youth as a '49er (that is, a gold digger in California's Gold Rush of the 1840s-1850s). The only seeming attempt at humor here is some gunplay by the judge that frightens the troupe of actors for his re-created town.
That "'49-'17" isn't a comedy or parody isn't the problem; rather, that was an unused solution to its mess. Instead, the filmmakers appear to have tried to cover the film up with a lot of title cards, which seem to have reworked the original scenario, as the titles and what we see don't always add up. There may have been some considerable editing done, too, as the resulting film today is choppy in places. None of this avoids what remains a sloppy, poorly-paced story, though.
Furthermore, the story's chronology and sense of aging is illogical. Through many flashbacks, the plot moves back and forth between the judge's days as a '49er to the present year of 1917 (hence the title). That's a time gap of 60 years or more, depending on when the judge took part in California's gold rush. The judge's aging between these periods is the closest to being plausible; the rest makes no sense. The baddie Gentleman Jim Raynor and his accomplice appear in '49 and '17 with the exact same appearance, as men somewhere around their 30s. Peggy is suggested as being a once-abandoned child from the gold rush, but she can't be any older than in her 20s by 1917. Additionally, the film is full of Western melodramatic contrivances and clichés, which just become boring when constructed so poorly and situated among such enormous continuity problems. F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre already took the fitting pun for an IMDb review title for this film: fool's gold, indeed.
One part I found interesting was Jean Hersholt's image as Gentleman Jim Raynor, who's clearly signified as the bad cowboy by his black dress and goatee, and he carried a mean look throughout the picture. Too bad such skillful character acting is wasted on this mess.
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