Time to celebrate Paddy…
One of the last blogathons that our dear friend, Paddy Lee participated in was the Odd Or Even Blogathon the lovely Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews and I held back in January. For those of you who missed that event, we had a coin toss decide whether our participants would review a film from an odd year or an even year. Paddy loved it, and since the coin fell on the even side (and don’t ask me which side that was because I can’t remember), she decided to review the 1928 Marion Davies vehicle, The Patsy.
Here’s a brief rundown for those who haven’t seen it: Pat (Marion Davies) is the also-ran of her family. She gets the part of the chicken that went over the fence last. Her older sister, Grace (Jane Winton), is the stylish one who’s expected to marry well, but Pat will be lucky if she can get a date or even a second look. And she hates it. While Grace is busy entertaining guys in the living room, Pat’s in the kitchen doing the dishes. Things just don’t seem to work in her favor. At least her dad (Dell Harrison) loves her and her mom (Marie Dressler) tolerates her.
Grace’s latest flame is Tony (Orville Caldwell), but the one who really loves him is Pat, who always brings him the biggest plate of ice cream when he comes to see Grace. It might seem that Grace has her claws firmly into him, and for a while Pat contents herself with carving Tony’s name into the kitchen soap and in the fog of the bathroom mirror, but things can always change.
One night when the family and Tony are having dinner out, Grace goes off with Billy Caldwell (Lawrence Gray), leaving Tony behind, baffled that Grace would just leave. Pat jumps down Grace’s throat later, but Grace is arrogant enough to think she can have her cake and eat it too. She makes a bet with Pat that Tony will go out with her no matter what. Pat doesn’t agree, but her confidence is so shot she collapses in tears on her bed after Grace talks Tony into giving her a ride to the yacht club and goes out the door with a cheese-eating grin on her face.
Pa has other ideas, though, because he knows what his daughter is capable of, and he encourages his daughter to be like a girl he saw in a movie who really knew her onions. It works; Pat snaps out of her funk. It might take a couple of false starts, but Pat is going to make her presence felt in her own way. Since Tony and Billy are friends, there’s some interesting juggling ahead.
The Patsy is based on a play of the same name by Barry Connors and was directed by the strong, steady King Vidor. Everyone connected with the movie came out a winner: The Patsy grossed $155,000 for MGM. It was not only the first of three times when Vidor would work with Marion Davies, but it was a comeback film for Marie Dressler, who had been blacklisted by Hollywood after forming the Actor’s Equity Union. King Vidor proved he could direct comedies, and Marion Davies proved she didn’t need Hearst to be successful in films. She was going to be herself, by hook or by crook, and comedy was definitely her thing.
I won’t say too much else because I want to do a “Stage To Screen” post on The Patsy someday, but I love this movie and I love Marion Davies. She is so, so awesome. I’m willing to bet she ad-libbed most if not all of her schtick in The Patsy, just because she was known to do that and a part like Pat would have given her a lot of latitude that way. Overall, The Patsy is a nice, easy, witty comedy and is a great starter film for anyone who’s just discovering Marion Davies.
And what was Paddy Lee’s verdict?
The cast is uniformly expert at the comedy craft, making The Patsy a delight. Marion’s character of “Pat” is a pro-active Cinderella who engages our sympathies. Orville Caldwell’s “Tony” is such a sincere dope that you can’t help but like him. Lawrence Gray’s “Billy” has a goofy sense of humour that takes the sting out of his trying to steal his pal’s gal. Jane Winton’s “Grace” is nobody’s fool except maybe her own. Dell Henderson’s “Pa” displays a resigned dry wit that is quite captivating. Marie Dressler’s tyranny as “Ma” could be overwhelming if played by an actress with lesser comedy chops.
The rest of Paddy’s post can be found here, but anyway, I remember commenting that it would be interesting to compare the movie to the play and doing the usual thank-you-for-joining-the-blogathon, but Gill hit the proverbial nail on the head: “It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
It really isn’t. Other blogathons have come up since Paddy’s passing, and I think a lot of us still look for Paddy’s enthusiastic “Count me in!” in the comment section. Or, for that matter, her thoughts on any movie or blog post out there. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. She was everyone’s grandma and everyone’s friend. She’ll always be missed.
For more Paddy Lee love, please see Jacquelyn at Another Old Movie Blog and Eve at Lady Eve’s Reel Life. Thanks for hosting, this, ladies–it was wonderful to be able to tribute our fellow blogger in this way. I think she would have loved it. Thanks for reading, all, and see you on Friday with another post…
The Patsy is available on DVD from Amazon.
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