Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Plot of "Skirts" Revealed

 Some time ago, I wrote an extensive article about Skirts, a stunt-filled comedy spectacle produced by Fox Film in 1921.  The film holds an important place in the history and development of the comedy feature.  Unfortunately, much mystery has come to surround this long-lost opus.  I wasn't able to determine the film's plot despite a thorough investigation of trade journal articles and reviews.  But Jorge Finkielman found a comprehensive plot description for the film in a vintage foreign publication, A Scena Muda.  The magazine, which was published in Brazil from 1921 to 1955, was a stylishly produced weekly that provided news stories on the Hollywood scene.  Finkielman did an excellent job translating the text. He has given me permission to publish his translation on my site. Thank you, Jorge!


Story by John Baldwin

A Fox – Sunshine Comedies production, starring CLYDE COOK.

They were short, very short, the skirts with which MR. PETER ROCKS [Harry Booker] dealt, they were skirts for bathing suits, but since MR. ROCKS sold them at expensive prices, he managed to gather a big fortune in this curious business, which led him to forget his own age and become elegant, with an exaggerated chic, as a full-fledged dandy. 

This was not all.  Once he had money and elegance the old ROCKS became a dirty old man, also forgetting his home and his wife whom he abandoned many years before, and forgetting to take care of the legal provisions of a divorce as well.

In a pool of a club, MR. ROCKS meets a beautiful young woman [Alta Allen] whom he examines through his large monocle. The young woman smiles with mockery, but her mother, an ambitious and authoritarian old woman [Laura LaVarnie], considers that the businessman's fortune is perfectly ideal to hide her wrinkles, so she orders her gallant daughter to be kind and accept marriage proposal that - she thinks - SR. ROCKS will not take long to request.

The young woman does not think about him, because all her affections already belong to a handsome marine officer [Harry Gribbon], whose only flaw is being economically poor. But, she obeys the old woman who forces her to be accompanied by the prosperous business man on a horseback ride.

It happens that the girl's rein breaks and her horse carries her in a gallop so vertiginous that it seems that she is in inescapable mortal danger.  But the brave marine, galloping with strength on his mare, reaches his beloved girl and saves her.

Later, seeing that she lost consciousness, the officer runs to look for water in a nearby well.  MR. ROCKS takes advantage of that opportunity to approach the beautiful girl and take her in his arms.  Waking up and seeing only the small merchant at her side, the girl judges that it had to be him who saved her and, full of enthusiasm and gratitude, immediately agrees to marry him.

But the forgetfulness of MR. ROCKS could not be without consequences.  His wife is still alive and, since she didn't know a way to earn a living, with false hair became a "bearded woman" in a big circus, where she also managed to have her son employed, the young and naive PETE [Clyde Cook], useful for all services. . . until one day in a newspaper the news of her husband's marriage with MISS X appears.  At last she has found the fugitive! She calls PETE and handing him the marriage certificate orders him to go and find his father in order to claim his rights.

But things get complicated. PETE loves the daughter of the owner of the circus, the beautiful MARY [Ethel Teare] who also loves him with passion, but who is desired by the circus HERCULES [Edgar Kennedy], a suggestive brute, who, having heard the words of MRS. ROCKS soon builds a sinister plan.  Taking advantage of the confusion caused by a thunderstorm, which falls upon the circus, he steals the document from PETE's pocket and shows up at the merchant's house posing as the boy.

MR. ROCKS, however, realizing that it will be difficult for him to recognize the son that he has not seen since he was six months old, and wishing to know him before accepting him, hides in an armor and sends the servant to receive the presumed son, to whom he gives a letter that MR. ROCKS wrote.  In the letter the old man asks the presumed son, since he needs to be absent for a month, to take over the business until his return.  Imagine! A business for women's swimwear!  A house full of models each more attractive!

HERCULES loses his head and begins to do nonsense of such caliber, that the old man is satisfied when PETE appears at the end and verifies that the first visitor is an imposter.

But, realizing that he lost a fortune, HERCULES wants compensation and for that reason he kidnaps the daughter of the circus' owner, MARY, that loves PETE.  Fortunately, PETE lost no time during his stay in the circus: he became an expert acrobat.  Thus, he rents an airplane and with a lot of audacity, he manages to "catch" his girlfriend from the roof of a train with which HERCULES intended to take her to the other end of the world.

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