THE MOLLYCODDLE. Fairbanks-United Artists, 1920. Douglas Fairbanks, Ruth Renick, Wallace Beery. Director: Victor Fleming. Shown at Cinecon 44, Hollywood CA, Aug-Sept 2008.

MOLLYCODDLE Douglas Fairbanks

   The films that Fairbanks made before the success of Robin Hood propelled him into the big-budget historical epics for which he is now remembered may not be as visually sumptuous as his later work, but they are every bit as entertaining.

   In this, his third United Artists release, Fairbanks plays Richard Marshall V, the descendant of a line of risk-takers and adventurers, who is the “Mollycoddle” of the title, a term coined by Theodore Roosevelt to characterize a spoiled, frivolous young man.

   Attracted to a young woman in Monte Carlo, he insinuates himself into her group, a party formed by villainous diamond smuggler Henry Van Holkar (Wallace Beery) that is shortly to set off as a cover for an Arizona tour where Van Holkar will pick up another supply of diamonds for delivery to Amsterdam.

   The Arizona excursion proves to be the making of Richard, who performs spectacular stunts that prefigure the Fairbanks roles shortly to follow. The most spectacular stunt, in which Marshall leaps from a cliff to a tree, was filmed with a double because of injuries Fairbanks sustained in an earlier stunt.

   The doubling is seamlessly shot, with the dastardly villain foiled and the intrepid hero and fair maiden reunited. All of the early Fairbanks films are wonderfully entertaining; ten of them, including The Moddycoddle, I am delighted to say, are included in a reecnt DVD set from Flicker Alley.

Editorial Note: In that set referred to by Walter are: His Picture in the Papers / The Mystery of the Leaping Fish / Flirting With Fate / The Matrimaniac / Wild and Woolly / Reaching for the Moon / When the Clouds Roll By / The Mollycoddle / The Mark of Zorro / The Nut.