Jul 22, 2014

Richard Barthelmess, The Patent Leather Kid


"Such was Richard Barthelmess' popularity in 1927 that audiences were willing to sit through all 12 reels of The Patent Leather Kid..." And it must be said that I really struggled with sitting through The Patent Leather Kid's 130 minute running time; it's one of those films in which you feel as though you've watched ten minutes and are subsequently shocked to find out it's actually been a little under five. (Also: what could possibly be more anticlimactic than a silent boxing story conjoined to a silent WWI story? Loud subjects hampered by silence is not the way to go)  But at the very least, Barthelmess does his best to make the viewing experience somewhat tolerable. He fits the part nicely--he's got just the right mix of good looks, ego, and ruggedness to pull off the smug machismo of the Kid. I found the scene in which the Kid reacts to having lost in the ring to be especially resonant, and Barthelmess surprised me with how much emotion and range he brought not only in that scene but in the film's wartime scenes as well. Outside of these particular highlights however, there's not too much happening on the acting front that's noteworthy--Barthelmess goes with the flow, reacts to situations, and carries this grossly tedious picture as well as any handsome and charismatic movie star can. I felt as though the film did a disservice to Barthelmess as it often fluttered along with a bunch of fluff that could have otherwise been cut, and instead of a great performance filled with a few great moments it becomes a good performance filled with a few great moments and a ton of insignificant filler moments. All in all, it's solid work in a not-so-solid film.

Once again, a big fat THANK YOU to GM for hooking me up with this film. You are awesome!

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