Fun Size Review: The Narrow Road (1912)

Elmer Booth is a convicted ne’er-do-well who has promised to stick to the straight and narrow upon his release from prison for the sake of his wife, Mary Pickford. The promise lasts all of ten minutes and Booth is soon drinking with a counterfeiter. I’m sure this will end well.

Booth is most famous for playing a gangster in The Musketeers of Pig Alley, which was released a few months after this picture. If you want to play the D.W. Griffith Expanded Cinematic Universe Game, it would be easy to imagine this as a prequel or sequel to the later film. Booth is his usual charming bad boy and Pickford gives her all to a pretty dull part.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

After he is nearly arrested for his friend’s misdeeds, Booth promises to behave forever and ever. We’ll see.

Read my full-length review here.

If it were a dessert it would be: Beer Hop Candy. Just be careful who you eat it with.

Availability: The Narrow Road was released on DVD as part of the Origins of Film box set. Alas, this set has fallen out of print.

4 Replies to “Fun Size Review: The Narrow Road (1912)”

  1. Love all things Pickford, and agree that she wrings the best she can out of this role. Elmer Booth has always been an intriguing film performer to me- can’t quite put my finger on specific reasons (have many times wondered what might he have done cinematically if he’d lived into the ’20s). Contemporary audiences seem to have felt similarly intrigued by Booth, which Griffith tapped into nicely. Like Sennett, Griffith really knew how to pick ’em, and once picked, didn’t always know quite what to do with ’em outside of his own rigid mindset. And then these fine performers would drift away, with neither man really understanding why…

    Having been part of a home brew-making team of neighbors in the not-too-distant past, may I say that I LOVE the smell and taste of fine hops. Would be willing to at least try hops candy- why not?

    1. Booth could be every inch the rogue, that’s his appeal in my book. His other roles (the brother in An Unseen Enemy, for example) are pretty typical of the acting style of the early 1910s but make him an antihero and his persona just pops.

      There’s quite an interesting study to be made of Sennett and Griffith’s refusal to acknowledge the star system, which, in hindsight, is just as shortsighted as early studios refusing to see the power of the dramatic feature film. I think it comes down to ego in both cases: they didn’t need stars, they MADE stars. If Griffith and Sennett had tried to keep even half of their discoveries, they likely would never had experienced their later financial woes. Cecil B. DeMille, Erich von Stroheim and F.W. Murnau were all name-above-the-title directors but they also understood how to leverage star charisma and incorporate it into their films. Working with unknowns is laudable but stars are usually beloved for a reason and using their drawing power is a basic skill every commercial director must have. (Not to say that these directors ONLY worked with stars and never unknowns, just that they understood how to use stars even if they may not have always been thrilled about the casting.)

      1. “If Griffith and Sennett had tried to keep even half of their discoveries, they likely would never had experienced their later financial woes.” Whoo boy, can’t agree more with that observation! I’ve often thought that Griffith and Sennett’s myopia regarding advantages to their films (and themselves financially) to be found in the star system is simply attributable to what Gran used to call “4 Star General Bullheadedness.” Equally large Hollywood egos saw and utilized the advantages- they refused to, and their films suffered artistically and commercially as a consequence.

      2. Oh my, what an awkward sentence I wrote there! Well, glad you understood what I meant!

        Yes, film actors are not puppets, they are skilled artists who can enhance a director’s vision. Griffith’s need to break his female stars and mold them to his vision of femininity was a real flaw in his craft. I think this is nicely proven by Lillian Gish’s sophisticated performances under the direction of Victor Seastrom, as well as Blanche Sweet’s underrated work with Cecil B. DeMille.

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