The Patsy (King Vidor / U.S., 1928):

She (Marion Davies) is the neglected gamine in the Jazz Age domicile, trying to keep up with her family's synchronized soup-slurping. A Sunday lunch ("That's my plate, not the city dump!") then dirty dishes in the sink while her haughty sister (Jane Winton) strings along the architect (Orville Caldwell) she secretly loves, a typical Cinderella day, at night a shooting-star wish: "To be entrancing, alluring, ravishing... like a stocking advertisement." In her shawl of a thousand patches, off to the social whirl with Mom (Marie Dressler) and Dad (Dell Henderson). (The matriarch gets a celery stalk in her décolletage, and Dressler's Keystone mugging sears beautifully through the yacht-club finery.) In the year of The Crowd, a gentler and funnier domestic analysis for King Vidor, anchored by Davies' tomboyish sunniness. The search for a suitor-friendly personality is a descent into lunacy, many a proverb is mangled in gags so ebullient that the heroine's daffy lilt can practically be heard behind the title cards. A repertoire of impressions—Mae Murray's toothy vamping, Lillian Gish's thin-lipped agitation, Pola Negri's Gypsy heat—fails to impress the dozing playboy (Lawrence Gray) who's got "an open mind temporarily closed for repairs." (Chaplin's dancing fingers and Keaton's revolving hats also have cameos.) Mater lacrimarium, "the greatest water power on earth" (cp. Stella Dallas), the Vidor builder looking for a feminine opinion on his blueprints and finding the malapropist of his dreams. Henpecked Pa puts his foot down at last but the grateful awakening is that of Davies the cutup, a sense of inner merriment as infectious as Carole Lombard's. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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