Director: King Vidor
Starring: Marion Davies, Orville Caldwell, Marie Dressler
Plot: A kooky younger daughter becomes the patsy of a social-climbing family when she falls in love with her older sister’s beau.
The delightful Marion Davies gets to exhibit her considerable comedic skills in this very enjoyable silent film from MGM. Often dismissed as merely the pretty mistress of one of the nation’s most powerful men, William Randolph Hearst, Davies was actually a very skilled actress. Better known for her stodgy costume dramas, director King Vidor invited her to star in THE PATSY after seeing her personality & talents unbridled whilst a guest at the fabulous home she shared with Hearst at San Simeon. Watching Marion moon over the man she secretly loves, acquire a very peculiar new personality, or attempt a riotous seduction of a notorious Lothario, is to see a very fine artist at her best.
Davies has her work cut out for her: playing her mother is the formidable Marie Dressler, who steals every scene with galumphing grace. With her large shapeless body and a face that probably scared dogs and small children, the marvelous Marie puts her genius for physical comedy into high gear as she grimaces, glares, pouts & flounces her way across the screen. This film is actually credited with saving her life: according to Hollywood legend the out-of-work Dressler was eating her last meal before committing suicide when she was spotted in the restaurant by Alan Dwan and offered the role of Davies’ Ma. The rest is history–within a couple of years Dressler would be the movies’ most popular star, a status she would hold until her untimely death in 1934.
Dell Henderson plays Davies’ lovable, but thoroughly henpecked, father. Glamorous Jane Winton has the role of her spoiled older sister. Orville Caldwell is the earnest fellow Davies adores. Lawrence Gray is hilarious as the lively playboy who gets a late-night visit from Davies he’ll never forget.