Based on a comedy by Barry Conners, The Patsy is a side-splitting Cinderella story, which carries an unmistakable feeling of late-twenties cool. It revolves around its lead character, Pat (Marion Davies), an awkward teenager who falls in love with her sister’s handsome beau (Orville Caldwell). Throughout the film, she tries all she can to make him notice her.
The Patsy showcases the talents of King Vidor and its lead comedienne. Having directed a majestic melodrama, The Crowd, that same year, Vidor showed that he was just as well-versed in directing bubbly comedies such as this. Davies, on the other hand, is an unjustly underrated figure. She was known as a problematic figure, thanks in part to her connection to newspaper publisher and businessman William Randolph Hearst (their relationship would be openly referenced in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and both are billed as producers of The Patsy, alongside the director). However, she was downright funny, and in The Patsy, she is at her best, taking the proverbial ball and running with it, tasked with playing what is arguably her greatest role.
Pat is, in fact, a splendid character. She inspires many creative gags. One of the reoccurring jokes is Pat’s never-ending search of “a personality.” This culminates in a standout sequence in which she, through the comic talents of Davies, impersonates three of silent cinema’s greatest actresses: Lillian Gish, Mae Murray, and Pola Negri.
Fast-paced, bubbly, lively, and filled with creativity, The Patsy is not only a delight: it is also comedy gold. Vidor would team up with Davies again that same year for the equally praiseworthy Show People, a satire about the movie business. – ★★★★★
THE PATSY | 1928, USA | Comedy | Directed by – King Vidor / Produced by – Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst, King Vidor / Written by – Barry Conners, Agnes Christine Johnston, Ralph Spence / Cinematography – John F. Seitz / Edited by – Hugh Wynn / Starring – Marion Davies, Mrie Dressler, Orville Caldwell, Lawrence Gray, Dell Henderson, Jane Winton | Running time: 78 mins.