RAG MAN, THE
(director: Edward F. Cline; screenwriter: from the story by Willard Mack/Robert E. Hopkins; cinematographers: Frank Good/Robert Martin; editor: Irene Morra; music: Linda Martinez-new score: 2004 alternate version; cast: Lydia Yeamans Titus (Mrs. Malloy), Robert Edeson (Mr. Bernard, aka Mr. Bishop), William Conklin (Mr. Richard L. Scott), Max Davidson (Max Ginsberg), Jackie Coogan (Timothy Kelly); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; Metro-Goldwyn/Warner Brothers; 1925-silent)
“A sentimental feel-good comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jackie Coogan was discovered by Charlie Chaplin and starred when he was seven in Chaplain’s The Kid. Just four years later, Coogan who was receiving a whopping salary of $25,000 a week, starred in The Rag Man–a sentimental feel-good comedy about the odd couple orphan Irish child and the elderly Jewish junk man teaming up to make a go of it in New York City during the 1920s. Great on nostalgia for seeing how the city looked back then, but weak on offering anything but a schmaltzy narrative. This is the same Jackie Coogan who from 1964 to 1966 became known again as a star playing Uncle Fester in the television sit-com of The Addams Family.
Timothy Kelly (Jackie Coogan) is an orphan who just escaped from a fire in his Lower East Side St. John’s Orphanage by scaling the wall with bed sheets, used as a rope, while in only his nightshirt and is thought to be dead. The smart youngster eludes a policeman who chases him and then rummages through the street garbage and manages to make due with some raggedy clothes, including a bowler hat, that ill-fit him. Tim sneaks on the horse driven cart of rag man Max Ginsberg (Max Davidson) and after being chased off convinces the kindly ailing man to give him a job watching his broken-down horse Dynamite. Max agrees because the kid proved he was honest by running after the cart and returning the purse he lost by accident. They make the rounds of the Lower East Side together, where Max’s old friend Mrs. Malloy, the apple lady, warmly greets the new team. At the end of the day Max is quite taken with the charms of the kid and lets him stay in his dumpy residence.
The heart of the story revolves on this endearing relationship between these two outsiders who look after one another and give each other the warmth neither has received before in life. It’s also learned that a long time ago Max had invented a type of sewing machine but Mr. Bernard (Robert Edeson), a crooked lawyer, cheated him out of the patent. Max has hired honest but ineffectual lawyer Richard Scott (William Conklin) to track down that patent claim and the elusive Bernard (who changed his name), but has has no luck finding either. But when Tim finds a letter of such proof in some hand-me down clothes given to him by a wealthy 5th Avenue woman who it turns out is Mrs. Bernard, the crooked lawyer’s wife, he then tracks down the crooked Bernard and after a few melodramatic twists Bernard has a change of heart due to his wife’s lectures and voluntarily gives back the $200,000 he stole from the rag man. The two rag men, now equal partners, become wealthy antiques dealers and live happily ever after.
REVIEWED ON 6/22/2005 GRADE: C+