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CLINGING VINE, THE (director: Paul H. Sloane; screenwriters: from a play by Zelda Sears/Jack Jevne adaptation/John W. Krafft; cinematographer: Arthur Miller; cast: Leatrice Joy (A. B.), Tom Moore (Jimmie Bancroft), Robert Edeson (T. M. Bancroft), Dell Henderson (B. Harvey Doolittle), Snitz Edwards (A. Tutweiler), Toby Claude (Grandma Bancroft); Runtime: 71; DeMille; 1926-silent)
“The Clinging Vine is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it does present an historical perspective of those silent era times.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Leatrice Joy was Cecil B. DeMille’s favorite actress, and he signed the silent screen star to an exclusive contract against the wishes of her husband John Gilbert. Gilbert’s objections were that DeMille offered less money than what she was already making and that he is a very controlling personality. Both the marriage and the contract did not last too long, as the marriage broke up over rumors that Gilbert was having many affairs.

Leatrice is responsible for popularizing the bobbed hair look, which was the style of her hair for this film.

This is a fluff romantic/comedy that has many plot holes. It was reflective of the 1920s male chauvinistic attitude toward women, where it can be said with a straight face by one of the main lady characters: “that a man wants beauty not brains in a woman.”

The Bancroft paint company is run by the mannish A.B. (Jones), the boss’s favorite employee and the only one he listens to without question because she’s so efficient. She hires the personnel and makes all the important business decisions as the boss, T.M. Bancroft (Edeson), prefers spending his time playing golf. But she’s unhappy because she leads a sexless and unfulfilling social life.

The head of the board of trustees is Doc Tutweiler (Snitz), an old bachelor, who can’t talk the boss into buying a valuable property called the Emeraldite, which has on its property a rare chemical that is used in paints. He gets A.B. to convince the boss to buy it. The boss is also disgusted with his grandson Jimmie’s poor work habits and gets A.B. to fire him by telegram. The board of directors is afraid of losing the invaluable A.B. and therefore they talk the reluctant Tut into asking her to marry him. But she emphatically turns him down.

When the boss comes up with gout in his foot and is confined to rest in his Stamford, Connecticut mansion, this gives the board and A.B. a chance to come to his estate for work and play. Jimmie (Tom Moore) also comes back from being stationed by the firm in Omaha and is seething that someone he never met, A.B., has fired him. Grandma Bancroft (Claude) decides to rectify the explosive situation, as she gets A.B.’s attention and changes her mannish appearance and teaches her how to behave like a modern lady would who is popular with the men. She tells her to let the man do the talking, to always agree with him, learn how to say no in a sweet way, and when you have to say something say only two things: 1)Do go on. 2) Aren’t you wonderful!

When grandma introduces the newly feminine ward-robed A.B. on the steps of her mansion, all the men swoon over her. The villain in this story is an obnoxious character called B. Harvey Doolittle (Henderson), who tries to make hay with the now attractive A.B.. But Jimmie comes forward at grandma’s urgings, and he falls in love with her. Jimmie tells her about his invention of a giant egg-beater machine that he wants to sell to grandpa, and that if he does he will marry her. Strangely enough, he never asks her name during all this time together!

When Jimmie demonstrates the machine, Doolittle sneakily fixes it so it splatters over all those watching the demo. Disappointed with his failure, Jimmie sulks to his new girlfriend that he’s a hopeless dreamer. A.B. decides to put all her money down, which is $25,000, and have Tut buy it for her without Jimmie’s knowledge.

Meanwhile a story appears in the paper saying there’s a mystery buyer of the Emeraldite property, which she tells the boss the mystery buyer is used as a ploy so his competitors won’t know that he was the one who bought it. Doolittle gets some samples of it from Tut and schemes to trick the dim-witted Jimmie out of his new money, which he easily does by selling him shares in the land by saying he was the mysterious buyer. Since he doesn’t own the property and gave him no deeds, it is beyond me how he pulled this off. It’s also beyond me how the family could invite someone as devious as that into their home. But, in any case, the brainy A.B. comes to Jimmie’s rescue and plants dust samples from the Emerald on a rose bush from the farm Jimmie was trying to sell, and thereby tricks Doolittle into bidding against Tut for the property until he buys it for $50,000.

When Jimmie learns that he has fallen for A.B., he still goes through with the marriage proposal. That seems to be the way a ‘feel-good’ movie went in those days. This same formula is still used by the Hollywood film, but films are much more polished today. The Clinging Vine is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it does present an historical perspective of those silent era times.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”