George Washington Magee’s (George M. Cohan) latest book “The Scarlet Satchel” is a big hit. George asks his friend what he thinks of the book. His friend calls the book the same old melodrama. He then shows George a review on the book that is less than flattering. George remarks that his books are the work of genius and anyone could write the type of book the critic prefers. He says he could write one of those “High Brow” books in twenty-four hours. George is then willing to put his money where his mouth is.
A wager of $5,000 is on the table. George’s next thought is to find a quiet place to write his book. His friend offers the use of Baldpate, a hotel he owns that is currently closed for the season. George agrees. He calculates that he can begin the book at midnight and finish by midnight the following night.
As soon as he gets off the train at Asquewan Falls George is met by the hotel caretaker Quimby (Russell Bassett). Quimby has received instructions to accommodate Magee and see to his needs. Before they head up to the hotel George is accosted by a female reporter, Mary Norton (Anna Q. Nilsson), looking to do an interview about his bet. He tells her it will have to wait until after the wager is completed and goes on his way.
On the way to the Inn they pass a hermit’s hut. Quimby remarks that the hermit Peter (Eric Hudson) likes to play ghost every now and then to scare the locals. When they reach the Inn Quimby gives George the only key to the Inn. His friend calls to make sure he has settled in. George tells Quimby to return tomorrow night at midnight to see the finished manuscript. Quimby then leaves and George settles down to write.
What follows is a series of intruders, blackmailers, a murder, a missing body, a framing and $200,000 in bribe money. A bevy of men and women, each with their own scheme, somehow has a key to the hotel and a nefarious plan.
“Seven Keys to Baldpate” was released in 1917 and was directed by Hugh Ford. It is based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers. George M. Cohan produced a play in 1913 based on the novel. In 1916 an Australian silent film was made. In 1917 another silent film was made, this one. It was produced by George M. Cohan based on his 1913 play adaptation. Cohen himself appears in this version in the lead role. Cohen only acted in five films. This film and “Broadway Jones” were both released the same year.
It is a very old movie that is just screaming for a restoration. It’s fun and fast, a little confusing at times but it is so well done that any flaws are immaterial to the overall quality of the performances. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
**“Seven Keys to Baldpate” has had many adaptations. It first started as a novel by Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers. Since then there were the following adaptations: “Seven Keys to Baldpate” (play), a 1913 play by George M. Cohan based on the novel. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1916, an Australian silent film. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1917, an American silent mystery/thriller film starring Cohan. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1925, a lost silent film. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1929, the first sound adaptation of Cohen’s play starring Richard Dix. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1935, a film adaptation based on Cohen’s play. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” 1947, another adaptation based on the play.
Altogether there were somewhere around six feature films made, three silent and three talkie. There were also some TV movies made and radio plays as well. I believe there was also a version done in 1983 called “House of Long Shadows”. I think Britain may have done a version as well.