Bucking Broadway (1917)

Film Review

BUCKING BROADWAY

Release Date: 24 December, 1917

Studio: Universal Film Manufacturing Company

Director: John Ford (as Jack Ford)

Starring: Harry Carey, Molly Malone, Vester Pegg, L.M. Wells

Writer: George Hively

Cinematographer: John W. Brown, Ben F. Reynolds

Synopsis

Cheyenne Harry (Carey), the foreman of a large western ranch, loves Helen Clayton (Malone), the daughter of his boss, Ben Clayton (Wells). Harry courts Helen, and they plan their marriage. He gives her a love token, a small heart he has carved. Eugene Thornton (Pegg), an attractive Easterner visiting the ranch, courts Helen secretly. On the eve of her marriage to Harry, Helen elopes with Thornton. Harry, broken hearted, accepts his loss and attempts to carry on.

Alone in New York with Thornton, Helen discovers that he and his friends are dissipated and immoral. She breaks the carved heart and sends half of it to Harry as a sign he should come to her aid. Harry goes to New York and finds a reluctant Helen at her wedding party in the company of Thornton and his disreputable companions. Harry needs help getting Helen away from them, and he sends for his cowboy friends who are appearing with the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. Harry's friends saddle their horses and gallop recklessly down Broadway. The fight between Harry and the cowboys against Thornton and his companions fills the garden and restaurant area of the hotel where the bridal party was held. Finally, the cowboys overcome all resistance; Harry knocks out Thornton and embraces Helen who greets him by kissing the carved heart.

Discussion

John Ford and Harry Carey made a series of westerns from 1916 to 1922, with Carey usually playing a westerner named Cheyenne Harry. Despite the constancy of his name, the hero’s character, occupation, and interests varied from film to film. Plots were uncomplicated, the stories often centering on Carey subduing the villain and winning the heroine.

Bucking Broadway was the fourth collaboration between Ford and Carey. Released December 1917, the film may have been intended as a rousing offering for the Christmas season. The introductory scenes occur in the open spaces of the west where Cheyenne Harry and other cowboys ride the range. The easterner takes the heroine into the confined spaces of New York City. To rescue her, the cowboys ride wildly down Broadway (actually a main thoroughfare of Los Angeles standing in for Broadway) and plunge into an all-out fight in a posh hotel. Contrasting west and east, the plot finds Carey and his plain friends more upright than the dissipated city people with their fine clothes and surroundings.

Harry Carey was a capable actor, mature and unremarkable looking but a substantial presence nonetheless, easygoing and good-natured, but dynamic and forceful when in action. He employed a few distinctive gestures when thoughtful or disturbed: rubbing his thumb down his chin, pushing back his hat, folding his arms and holding his elbows, or pulling his horse's tail. Carey started in films with the Biograph Company and appeared in dozens of D.W. Griffith shorts from 1909 to 1913, including The Musketeers of Pig Alley. In 1915, he went to Universal and soon become a western star. Carey originated Cheyenne Harry in 1917 and had used the name in several films before Ford began to direct him.

John Ford directed Harry Carey westerns until 1922; their final Cheyenne Harry film was made in 1919. Around 1922, Ford and Carey had a falling out, and Carey did not appear in another Ford film for fifteen years (The Prisoner of Shark Island, 1936).

Molly Malone and Vester Pegg were cast in several of the Ford/Carey films of 1917-1918. Molly Malone entered films in 1917 at age 29. In 1920-21, she was a leading actress with the Goldwyn Company but soon declined into supporting roles with a variety of small companies. She made her final film in 1929. Vester Pegg (1887-1951) started in film in 1912 and made many short films through 1919 for companies such as Nestor, Majestic, and Reliance. Pegg was a supporting actor in westerns through the twenties and continued as an uncredited extra until 1941. He appeared in several John Ford films in the thirties, most notably as one of the Plummer brothers in Stagecoach (1939).

Further Reading

Only two of the Ford/Carey films are known to survive mostly intact, Straight Shooting and Bucking Broadway (both 1917). Sections of several other films also survive, but most are lost, as are most of Ford's silent features.

REFERENCES

John Ford, Peter Bogdanovich, University of California Press, 1968.

John Ford, A Biography, Andrew Sinclair, Lorrimer Publishing, Ltd., 1979.