Fun Size Review: Tol’able David (1921)

If you asked me to pick just one movie that perfectly captured the spirit of romanticized rural America, it would be this one. Richard Barthelmess gives the performance of a lifetime as a gentle lad who faces a coldly brutal world and is forced to grow up overnight.

Contains violent passages yet it maintains its sweetness. Simple yet packed with symbolism. Barthelmess and Gladys Hulette are flawless. This one is a classic for a reason.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.
The film ends with a David vs. Goliath match when the villains steal a bag of mail. David wins after a bloody struggle and is declared tol’able.

Read my full-length review here.

If it were a dessert it would be: Maple Glazed Donuts. Thoroughly New World. It may seem like an old hat but it is done so well that it’s a revelation.

Availability: Released on DVD by Flicker Alley.


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  1. Overseas Visitor

    Stories and documentation of worlds that are about to disappear are an important topic of arts. Silent era rural movies have credibility that could not be achieved afterwards – even when they don’t aim at realism. Films like Tol’able David are invaluable.

    One thing that I wonder is that there are famous American and Soviet rural silent movies, but I don’t recall anything similar from Germany or France, for example.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      There are scenes of shtetl life found in German and Austrian films, which definitely classify as disappearing worlds. France had Poil de carotte (1925). But I agree, these films are not emphasized the way American and Russian (pre- and post-revolution) rural films are.

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