In Mr. Robinson Crusoe (United Artists) bouncing Douglas Fairbanks Sr. cheerfully burlesques Daniel Defoe's old story. He does it by his familiar formula of expansio ad absurdum, inflating his original idea into incredible superlatives. Fairbanks is on his way to Sumatra to shoot tigers when his schooner yacht passes close to a tropic island and he bets his friend (William Farnum) that he is competent to mold jungle into civilization with only bare hands and one toothbrush. The friend takes the bet; Fairbanks jumps overboard; his dog follows; Fairbanks throws back the toothbrush. Audiences chuckle as he staggers out of the surf with his alert, parody Boy Scout expression, ready for any emergency Scenarist Tom Geraghty may devise. Having landed June i, by June 24 he has made saws, jugs, hammocks, hatchet, carpenter's plane, outhouse with scroll-sawed star & crescent, pickaxe, baskets, architect's plans; has taught a parrot to say "O.K.," his dog to be civil to a monkey that vaguely resembles Fairbanks. Soon afterward he has dug traps, caught a goat, made the he-goat run a treadmill to churn the she-goat's milk, trained a turtle to follow food dangled by a stick in a circle, thereby lifting water from a well to run down a chute, over a fire and out of a faucet marked "Hot." He lives in a "penthouse," an impressive four-room house on a platform that must have taken the United Artists carpenter crew months to make (not to speak of the months they must have spent making hollowed wooden dishes, sharpened shell knives and scissors, woven blankets and tapestries, basket work). He has an elaborate machine to throw a fishnet far out to sea, a trolley to carry him down the mountainside. From a savage whom he tries to make his Man Friday, who escapes after Fairbanks has shown him the white man's leg-scissor hold, toehold, and hammerlock, he obtains zinc and copper (cheerfully left unexplained) and two radio tubes the savage With these and several score handmade batteries, he makes a radio set, listens happily to news of traffic deaths, business suicides, cosmetics and alimony.
The plot enters in the person of a beauteous native girl (Maria Alba) who has run away from marriage on a nearby island. She likes Fairbanks, gets into bed with him. He extricates himself, calls her "cute." Meanwhile Fairbanks' returning friends stop at the nearby island that Maria Alba has left, hire the natives to fake a capture and the beginning of a stake-burning, to be interrupted by the friends. The natives come, find the escaped girl, carry out the stake-burning in earnest. But as Fairbanks' homemade shorts get hot, the monkey turns on the radio, the savages flee, the girl rescues Fairbanks. Both escape to the yacht. In Manhattan Fairbanks makes the girl eligible for marriage by making her a famed Broadway dancer, like Reri whom the late Film Director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau discovered, who danced in the late Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies, is now in vaudeville.
Douglas Fairbanks, 49, leaps and handstands less in Mr. Robinson Crusoe than in his famed earlier pictures, The Mark of Zorro, Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Thief of Bagdad, Black Pirate, Iron Mask.