Saturday, May 25, 2024

Its the Old Army Game, with Louise Brooks, was released on this day in 1926

Its the Old Army Game, with Louise Brooks and W.C. Fields, was released on this day in 1926. The film is a comedy about a small town druggist (played by W.C. Fields) who gets involved with a real estate scam. Louise Brooks plays the druggist's assistant. The film was Brooks' fourth, and it reunited her with the Fields, the film's star. The two had worked together in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925. More about the film can be found on the Louise Brooks Society website filmography page.

In its review, the Newark Star-Eagle stated, “This picture not only affords a good deal of typical Fields comedy in a suitable story frame, but also reveals the possibilities of Louise Brooks, Follies girl who is making decidedly good in the cinema. . . . All told, Fields need not regret his first Paramount production. Louise Brooks, with a touch of piquancy, a good range of registration, and the conception of restraint, is pleasing as the heroine.”

It's the Old Army Game was originally announced as starring Fields and future "It girl" Clara Bow, but she was shooting Mantrap (1926), so the female lead fell to Brooks. Exhibitor’s Herald stated, “Louise Brooks is the other important person in the picture and, as insinuated rather bluntly on the occasion of her first appearance -- in The American Venus -- she’s important. Miss Brooks isn’t like anybody else. Nor has she a distinguishing characteristic which may be singled out for purposes of identification. She’s just a very definite personality. She doesn’t do much, perhaps because there isn’t much to do but probably because she hits hardest when doing nothing, but nobody looks away when she’s on screen. If Miss Glyn should say that Miss Brooks has ‘it,’ more people would know what Miss Glyn is raving about. But in that case she would not be raving.”

The Portland Oregonian noted “Louise Brooks, the pert young woman who will be remembered for her work in The American Venus and A Social Celebrity, the latter with Adolphe Menjou, has the lead role opposite Fields. She poses a bit. An excuse was found to get her into a bathing suit too, which wasn’t a bad move, on the whole.” 

It's the Old Army Game received mostly positive reviews, though some critics noted its rather thin plot. Algonquin Round Table playwright Robert E. Sherwood (who would go on to win four Pulitzer Prizes and an Academy Award) was then writing reviews for Life magazine. His pithy critique read, “Mr. Fields has to carry the entire production on his shoulders, with some slight assistance from the sparkling Louise Brooks.” Ella H. McCormick of the Detroit Free Press countered with "Fields scored a splendid triumph in this picture. A great part of the success of the offering, however, is due to Louise Brooks, who takes the lead feminine part."

Today, It's the Old Army Game is largely remembered as a starring vehicle for Fields -- a comedic great, It is also remembered for the fact that not long after the film wrapped, Brooks married the film's director, Eddie Sutherland.

Under its American title, documented screenings of the film took place in Australia (including Tasmania), Bermuda, British Malaysia (Singapore), Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Panama, and the United Kingdom (England, Isle of Wight, Northern Ireland, and Scotland). In Czechoslovakia, the film was promoted under the title The Old Army Game. In Japan, it was once promoted as It’s the Old Army.

Elsewhere, It’s the Old Army Game was shown under the title El boticario rural (Argentina); Ein moderner Glücksritter (Austria); Een Apothekersstreek (Belgium); Risos e tristezas (Brazil); El Boticario Rural (Cuba); To je starí hra armády (Czechoslovakia); Miehen ihanne (Findland); Un Conte D’Apothicaire (France); チョビ髯大将 (Japan); Laimes spekuliantai (Lithuania); Un Conte d’hapoticaire! (Luxembourg); El Boticario Rural (Mexico); Pierewaaier — Pilledraaier (The Netherlands); Ungkar og spillemann (Norway); El boticario rural (Spain); Mannen som gör vad som faller honom in (Sweden *); and El boticario rural (Uruguay).

* The film was censored in Sweden, though when released in 1930, it was deemed suitable for all audiences.


 -- Clarence Badger was originally assigned to direct, but the film was soon turned over to Edward Sutherland, a onetime actor and Keystone Cop who began his directing career just a few years before with the help of Charlie Chaplin. The film was announced, at first, as starring W.C. Fields and future “It girl” Clara Bow, but as she was needed on the West Coast to shoot Mantrap (1926), the female lead fell to Brooks. It's the Old Army Game was the first of five Fields' films directed by Sutherland.

-- Outdoor scenes in Palm Beach, Florida were shot at El Mirasol, the estate of multi-millionaire investment banker Edward T. Stotesbury. In 1912, after having been a widower for thirty-some years, Stotesbury remarried and became the stepfather of three children including Henrietta Louise Cromwell Brooks (known simply as Louise Brooks), an American socialite and the first wife of General Douglas MacArthur. In her heyday, she was "considered one of Washington's most beautiful and attractive young women". Because of their names, the two women were sometimes confused in the press.

-- Silent film historian John Bengston has written a series of posts on his Silent Locations website looking at various scenes from the film. Each are well worth checking out. They include "W.C. Fields in Palm Beach – It’s the Old Army Game" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks Bring Magazines to Life" -- "It’s The Old Army Game – W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks in Ocala Florida – Part One".

-- It’s the Old Army Game was officially released May 25, 1926. The film opened in select cities on May 22, 1926, with the earliest showings taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, Hartford, Connecticut, and Indianapolis, Indiana. The film was advertised to open a few days earlier in Palm Beach, Florida (on May 18) and elsewhere, but was delayed.

THE LEGAL STUFF: The Louise Brooks Society™ blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society  ( Original contents copyright © 2024. Further unauthorized use prohibited. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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