The Way of All Flesh (Emil Jannings). Not Samuel Butler's famed novel but Perley Poore Sheehan's little-known story supplies the framework of the great German actor's first U. S.-made film.* It concerns one August Schiller, who flourished in Milwaukee back in the days when gentlemen associated that town with beer, and when ladies carried muffs. The first half of the film shows him a pillar of society, plain, foursquare, sunk in a large family. A doting father of six, a pompous cashier in his bank, a champion bowler, he is admirable in all things, full of little unpricked vanities, and simply worshipful in an Olympian set of whiskers that obscure almost a half of his necktie but add immeasurably to his dignity.
The later scenes show him deflated and ennobled. His bank has sent him to Chicago to dispose of a batch of securities. There, taken in by the misleading lady (Phillis Haver), he has lost successively his whiskers, sobriety, chastity, bonds, nerve and identity. The world believes him the victim of bandits. Repentant, he obscures himself to preserve that illusion for the good name of his beloved children. Years later, the bedraggled old Zeus is pictured peeping through frost-dimmed windows to behold from his own shadowed squalor the riches and happiness of his grown-up family. While Mr. Jannings is on the screen, as he is most of the time, even the bleary portions of the film are compelling.
Moon of Israel. Again the Red Sea makes way for the Israelites.! This time the miracle is incidental to a story based on Sir Rider Haggard's novel. This German film includes an episode in which the son of Pharaoh seeks out a slave girl as bride. It manages to be rather dull.
Wedding Bills (Raymond Griffith). "He is the worst best man I ever had," says the groom of Mr. Van Twidder. The trouble is that Mr. Van Twidder has been pressed into too many wedding ceremonies, is bored with everything. No former wedding was like this one, however, where he is obliged to recover letters from a blackmailing woman and to chase a pigeon up the flagpole of a skyscraper in what proved, figuratively and literally, to be the high point of a funny film.
The First Auto. When, in 1895, the automobile started to run the horse out, Hank Armstrong (Russell Simpson) found himself hitched to the stable cause, while his son, Bob (Charles E. Mack*), trailed the new-fangled enemy. Only after Barney Oldfield (who appears in the film) has roared over a race track at the unprecedented speed of 60 miles per hour, and Sloe Eyes, his last mare, has taken her final earthly hurdle, does the old horse-lover give in to the conquering gas-buggy. By that time his son has grown romantic under the influence of the heroine (Patsy Ruth Miller) and returned to the horse tradition, leaving the house as hopelessly divided against itself as before.