The Patsy

USA 1928, Feature film, 80' | Director King Wallis Vidor | DoP John Seitz | Screenplay Agnes Christine Johnston | Cast Marion Davies, Orville Caldwell, Marie Dressler, Dell Henderson, Lawrence Gray, Jane Winton, William O'Brian | Production King Wallis Vidor, Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst | Contact bfi - British Film Institute

»The film is worth seeing for the mother alone [Marie Dressler]. A family tyrant, a-huffing and a-puffing, always giving both daughter and husband fierce looks, full of sweet blandishments for well-to-do men in whom she senses future sons-in-law; but, also, at the same time, dressed up to the nines and ready to use any social event as a welcome opportunity to parade her corseted belly…«
F. Damman in: Lichtbild-Bühne, Nr. 80 / 1929

Patricia, known as Patsy, is the one who gets browbeaten in the family – particularly by her mother and her older sister Grace who continually push her around and exploit her. When Patsy falls in love with Tony – who, for his part, is courting the sister – she does whatever possible to sabotage the relationship. Pa Harrington, who is actually on Patsy's side but who cannot assert himself in the family, supports her on the quiet with hints as to how she might win Tony. Well, she does everything in her power. She reads books on personality development, feigns an interest in another young man and also delivers hugely funny impersonations of Pola Negri, Mae Murray and Lillian Gish. All to no avail: Tony is less than impressed with Patsy. Yet she stays on the ball and only when Pa finally manages to impose himself on the proceedings do the family rows come to an end. As Patsy, Marion Davies pulls out all the stops!


MARIE DRESSLER was 24 when she made her first appearance on Broadway in 1892. Her film debut followed in 1914 with Tillie's Punctured Romance alongside Charles Chaplin. However, due to her trade-union commitment, she was blacklisted for a long time. Only in 1927 did Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) take her under contract, first casting her as a resolute elderly lady and subsequently in comedies. The breakthrough to become one of Hollywood's best-known stars came in 1930 with Greta Garbo's talking film debut Anna Christie . A year later, she won the Best Actress Oscar far her role in Min and Bill (1930).

MARION DAVIES' film career began 1916 and is inextricably linked with William Randolph Hurst . He founded a production company especially for her, distributed the films via Paramount and MGM and paid her exorbitant salaries. Her talent lay in the field of light comedy and she was to make her most successful films with director King Vidor. Because she could sing and dance, she was also able to cross over to talkies at the end of the 1920s. In Going Hollywood, she starred with Bing Crosby. When her career stagnated and William Hurst attempted to lock her into other kinds of roles, she transferred to Warner Brothers before officially ending her career in 1937.

Films with Marie Dressler (Selection)
Dinner at Eight 1933 | Tugboat Annie 1933 | Emma 1931 | Min and Bill 1930 | Let Us Be Gay 1930 | Anna Christie 1930 | The Divine Lady 1929 | Tillie's Punctured Romance 1914

King Wallis Vidor
Feature Film, Silent Film
Focus: Now What