FLIRTING WITH FATE
starring Douglas Fairbanks
MOVING PICTURE WORLD
July 8, 1916
Superior in many respects to any vehicle Fairbanks has had, "Flirting with Fate" introduces a comical element of fear which would enable the story to stand on its own merits in open competition, whether interpreted by Mr. Fairbanks or not. Of course, he brings to it an element of intense personality which materially helps where there is structural strength and enlivens in moments of weakness, but "Flirting with Fate" comes nearer being a true story than any of those in which he has recently appeared, and it contains opportunity for other members of his company, those who ordinarily support him as merely negative members of a chorus with one active principal. This greater story breadth is of high value in sustaining interest.
Mr. Fairbanks impersonates a poor artist in love with a girl of high society, one of unusual beauty, and he is driven to despair by a combination of misfortunes, including the loss of a much-cherished portrait he has painted of her and, as he believes, the girl herself. He fails in all attempts to commit suicide and hires a professional assassin, Automatic Joe, admirably impersonated by George Beranger, to kill him onsight. The characterization of the professional killer, with his peculiar scruples, constitutes a large enough comedy element in itself to carry over the play. Having received fifty dollars to do the job, Automatic Joe is determined to earn the money, though it be the last act of its kind in his life. His mother's death and the effortts of a Salvation Army officer induce Joe to reform, but he will not let his past repuatation suffer, he, the greatest of his kind.
Through overwhelming good fortune, the poor artist is nearly driven crazy. The stolen portait is recovered; a friend lends him ready money; the misundestanding with his sweetheart is adjusted, and he is left great wealth. In spite if it all, he must die. He cannot find Automatic Joe, and the great killer has never been known to swerve from duty. He has a hundred disguises, may be any of the people the artist meets, and he may deal death by pistol, dagger, bomb or poison. The artist engages a correspondence school detective to guard him and flees from his own employee when he sees him in disguise. His agony of mind grows more and more intense, until he runs at the sight of any one who might be Automatic Joe in disguise. He is finally married, but he is only fairly started on his honeymoon when he is chased by Automatic Joe in the guise of a Salvation Army recruit, and he is finally treed, only to learn that Joe has completely reformed and only wanted to return the fifty dollars.
The story is a winner straight through, admirably constructed, capably handled and interpreted by a notable cast.
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