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Copyright © 1999-2019 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
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Little Old
New York

(1923)

 

This historical comedy-drama, based on the play by Rida Johnson Young and directed by Sidney Olcott, stars Marion Davies, Harrison Ford, Stephen Carr, Marion Hamilton, Sam Hardy and Louis Wollheim.

The scene is early nineteenth century New York. Among the citizens are a number of the city’s movers and shakers, building their future fortunes and making names for themselves. Among them is Robert Fulton (Courtenay Foote), who with Cornelius Vanderbilt (Sam Hardy) is seeking additional investors to build the practical prototype of his steamboat. Being frustrated, Fulton proposes they solicit Larry Delavan (Harrison Ford) who is thought to be inheriting a million dollars from his late stepfather Richard O’Day.

At the reading of the will Larry learns that there is someone else, a young nephew Patrick O’Day (Stephen Carr) living in Ireland, to whom the fortune goes. The catch is, and Larry’s faint hope, Patrick must be found and arrive in New York to claim the fortune within one year of O’Day’s death.

In Ireland, the improverished O’Day family is on the verge of eviction. Irish spitfire Patricia O’Day (Marion Davies) – all Mary Pickford curls – curdles the ears of their heartless landlord when, in the nick-of-time, everyone learns of the fortune that will be Patrick’s. However, Patrick is very ill and may be unable to survive the trip to New York. With a two month deadline to beat, the family departs for America.

Meanwhile, Larry has seen a year go by without the arrival of the heir standing between himself and his fortune. On the evening of the final day, Larry and friends are celebrating the pending passage of the deadline when, to their drunken amazement and disappointment, Patrick O’Day arrives. But, wait! We know that isn’t Patrick but Patricia instead, who has shorn her curls and donned boys’ clothing to impersonate her brother.

Having lost his inheritance and on a trust fund income of $6,000 a year, Larry cannot raise the $10,000 to invest in the completion of Fulton’s steamboat. While Delavan alternates between moping and chasing shallow entertainments, John O’Day (J.M. Kerrigan) dies leaving Pat alone in New York with her guardian Larry.

With Fulton’s steamboat nearing completion and Larry still not part of the investment group, Pat goes to executor John Jacob Astor (Andrew Dillon) to get $10,000 from the inheritance to fund Larry’s partnership. Believing solely in the solidity of real estate, Astor refuses to release the money for what he considers to be a foolhardy scheme that is doomed to failure.

Pat also finds herself in a jealous battle for the attentions of Larry, who in turn finds himself admiring the usurping young man. When Fulton’s steamboat is successfully tested, Pat slips a $10,000 guarantee note (earmarked by Astor for a real estate purchase) to Fulton on Larry’s behalf.

Still wanting to raise his portion of the investment money by himself, Larry decides to bet his house on the outcome of a boxing match between volunteer fireman ‘Bully Boy’ Brewster (Harry Watson) and ‘The Hoboken Terror’ (Louis Wolheim) at the local firehouse. Horribly outmatched, Brewster is losing when Pat disrupts the match by ringing the alarm bell until confusion and chaos reign. Now accused of cheating the match, Larry is the target of the angry mob who intend to punish him. Pat intervenes and admits to ringing the bell. Strung to the whipping post, Pat is lashed by the ‘Terror’ until she crys out in pain to the crowd that she is a girl.

The truth exposed, Larry is now a rich man and suddenly finds himself acknowledging his feelings toward Pat that were muddled by the imposture. Arrested for fraud and facing a two-year prison term, Patricia confesses the whole story before a courtroom. She, her father and brother set out for New York to claim Patrick’s fortune only to have him succomb to death during the passage. Father John in revenge blames the Delavans for the death of his son and concocts a scheme to defraud New York by Patricia impersonating her brother for the inheritance. The court is so swayed by her emotional story that they are shamed into letting her off with a fine that the gentlemen of the jury will pay themselves. Amid glycerine tears, Larry asks Patricia to marry him (you knew it would happen, didn’t you?).

Marion Davies turns in yet another winning performance in this satisfying historical soaper. Harrison Ford holds his own in a cast of notable players. And we must acknowledge the set design by Joseph Urban and the costume design of Gretl Urban. If this type of story is your cup of tea, you will enjoy this film adaptation of the Young play for years to come. — Carl Bennett

coverUndercrank Productions
2019 DVD edition

Little Old New York (1923), black & white, 108 minutes, not rated,
with Hold Fast (1916) [excerpt], black & white, 6 minutes, not rated.

Undercrank Productions, no catalog number, UPC 6-47213-97020-3.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in windowboxed 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 11 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $19.98.
Release date: 19 November 2019.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 8 / additional content: 5 / overall: 7.

This DVD-R edition has been digitally scanned at 2K high-resolution from a 35mm nitrate positive held by the Library of Congress. Flaws in the source print remain in the scan, as apparently no attempt has been made to digitally remove dust, speckling, scuffing, scrapes, scratches and timing marks.

An A-B comparison of this edition to the Lorusso disc noted below reveals a noticably but only slightly better picture. The greyscale range is broad, with more image detail in shadow areas that are a little darker in the Lorusso edition.

The film is accompanied by a fine music score composed and performed on virtual theatre pipe organ by Ben Model. Victor Herbert’s composition “Little Old New York,” which was originally written for the film, is incorporated into the score.

The edition’s supplemental material includes an excerpt from Harry Watson’s short comedy, Hold Fast (1916), presumably included because Watson had a minor role in the Davies feature.

This edition looks pretty darn good on a high-resolution monitor capable of line-doubling and it is our recommended home video edition of Little Old New York.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
coverEdward Lorusso
2019 DVD edition

Little Old New York (1923), black & white, 107 minutes, not rated.

Edward Lorusso, no catalog number, no UPC number.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (anamorphic 720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, no chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $19.95.
Release date: 23 August 2019.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 6 / audio: 8 / additional content: 0 / overall: 6.

This Kickstarter-funded edition has been digitally scanned at 2K high-resolution from a 35mm nitrate positive held by the Library of Congress. Flaws in the source print remain in the scan, as apparently no attempt has been made to digitally remove dust, speckling, scuffing, scrapes, scratches and timing marks.

An A-B comparison of this edition to the Grapevine disc noted below reveals approximately 15 percent more of the original 35mm image as opposed to the modestly cropped 16mm image presented in the Grapevine edition. The greyscale range is broad, with deeper blacks that do not become dark wells of featureless shadows. We can’t account for the slight difference in quality, coming from the same 2K scan files, except to postulate that it is the result of different video software and mastering settings.

The film is accompanied by the same music score composed and performed on virtual theatre pipe organ by Ben Model as the Undercrank edition noted above.

The Kickstarter edition’s supplemental material is a lean 12-page color booklet.

This edition was publicly available through Lorusso’s iOffer online store. We do not know whether the booklet is included.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is available directly from iOffer.
coverGrapevine Video
2005 DVD edition

Little Old New York (1923), black & white, 106 minutes, not rated.

Grapevine Video, no catalog number, UPC 8-42614-10041-3.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in windowboxed 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $19.95.
Release date: 2005.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 3 / audio: 3 / additional content: 0 / overall: 3.

This DVD-R edition has been transferred from a very-good 16mm reduction print that features a reasonably broad greyscale range and soft image details. The disc itself has been mastered at compression levels high enough that resolution lines can plainly be seen on large high-resolution monitors. The resulting picture is on the verge of being blurry yet with visible resolution lines. Go figure.

The film is accompanied by a soundtrack compiled from preexisting recordings.

This watchable DVD, which was formerly the only known home video edition available, is not recommended since the release of the two discs noted above.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is available directly from . . .
Other silent era MARION DAVIES films available on home video.
 
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