"The Red Mill" (1927) is a silent romantic comedy that stars Marion Davies, Owen Moore, and Louise Fazenda. Directed by William Goodrich, alias Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, this film is a Cinderella story based loosely on a Victor Herbert and Henry Blossom stage operetta.
The story begins with Tina, played by Marion Davies, a Dutch girl who works as a maid of the Red Mill Tavern, cleaning the floor by skating around with scrub brushes attached to her feet. Her villainous boss makes her work from dawn til dusk and goes around with a whip. Tina's only friend is Ignatz, a little white mouse who lives inside her wooden shoe. One day Tina sees Dennis, played by Owen Moore, ice skating, and she is attracted to him. Tina ventures out to find Dennis surrounded by female admirers, but she manages to meet him. They are soon skating together while Tina swoons on his shoulder. Unfortunately, she learns that Dennis is an Irish prince betrothed to the Burgomaster's daughter. On the other hand, the Burgomaster's daughter Gretchen, played by Louise Fazenda, does not want to marry Dennis because she is in love with a peasant. Tina comes up with the idea that they should exchange clothes so Gretchen can sneak out and meet her secret love. Meanwhile Tina dresses as Gretchen and goes after Dennis, which leads to all sorts of trouble. Will the Dutch maid get her Irish prince? "The Red Mill" had been an enormous success on Broadway and an ideal film adaptation for Marion Davies. The reviews of the day praised the details of the set imitating a small Dutch village, with the tavern, a canal, and a large windmill.
The wonderful ice skating scenes put Davies in a skating race, during which, when a dog chases a white mouse, she grabs hold of the dog and is pulled along at top speed. These scenes are largely successful because of the astounding comedic abilities of Davies. It is generally assumed today that Davies had no talent and that she survived in films only because she was the mistress of newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, who formed Cosmopolitan Pictures exclusively to produce starring roles for her. On the contrary, Davies had a charming personality that came across on film, and she was a magnificent comedienne that was very popular with audiences. She also received good reviews on her own from rival publications. Davies went all out in her comedic scenes in "The Red Mill" and she took the idea that she was playing an unglamorous maid very seriously. One of the funniest scenes in the film shows Davies with no makeup as she covers up her face with a mud massage which magically comes off to reveal her now fully made up beautiful face. Handsome Owen Moore and lively Louise Fazenda give great performances, but this is definitely a Marion Davies film. The exciting finale is a mixture of laughter and fright. "The Red Mill" is a silent gem that showcases Marion Davies from slapstick to heartbreak to horror.
* It is interesting to note that Marion Davies was instrumental in getting Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle to direct "The Red Mill." Arbuckle was forced to use the pseudonym, William Goodrich, due to his rape/murder trial just a few years earlier.