AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Strong Man
Alternate Title: The Yes Man
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Sep 1926
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 5 Sep 1926
Production Date:   early May--late Aug 1926
Duration (in mins):   75
Duration (in feet):   6,882
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Harry Langdon (Paul Bergot)  
    Priscilla Bonner (Mary Brown)  
    Gertrude Astor ("Gold Tooth")  
    William V. Mong (Parson Brown)  
    Robert McKim (Roy McDevitt)  
    Arthur Thalasso (Zandow the Great)  

Summary: Paul Bergot, a Belgian soldier during World War I, drives away a German soldier with his slingshot, then reads the latest letter from his pen pal, Mary Brown, an American with whom Paul has fallen in love, even though they have never met. While he is reading, Paul is captured by the same German soldier, who, after the Armistice, takes Paul along when he emigrates to America to become Zandow the Great, a vaudeville strong man. After their arrival, Paul searches for Mary by comparing a poor photograph of her with women he passes on the street. He is spotted by "Gold Tooth," who slips some stolen money into Paul's coat to elude the detective following her. The detective is fooled, but when "Gold Tooth" attempts to retrieve the money, she discovers that it has slipped into the lining of Paul's coat. She then tells him that she is the "Little Mary" for whom he is looking, and although he is dismayed by her worldly behavior, she lures him to her apartment building. Outside the building, however, Paul attempts to flee, and so "Gold Tooth" pretends to faint, after which Paul gets her up a stairway by holding her on his lap and scooting up the stairs one at a time, backwards. In her apartment, "Gold Tooth" chases Paul, trying to get the money, while he assumes that she is burning with passion for him. She gets the money, and Paul leaves to rejoin Zandow, who has been engaged to perform in Cloverdale. Paul enrages his fellow bus passengers with his ministrations to his cold, but eventually he and Zandow arrive in Cloverdale, where Mary's father, Parson Brown, is leading the fight against Roy McDevitt, a bootlegger and owner of the Palace Music Hall. Paul soon learns that Mary is in Cloverdale and presents himself to her, after which he is stunned by her confession that she is blind. Despite his shock, the couple are soon holding hands and sharing jokes. Zandow, meanwhile, has become drunk and cannot perform, so in order to prevent the audience from rioting, McDevitt dresses Paul in Zandow's costume and thrusts him onto the stage. Paul entertains the crowd for a while, but when one of the audience members makes a rude reference to Mary, Paul begins a fight which soon escalates beyond his control. Paul takes refuge on the trapeze onto which Zandow was to be shot from a cannon, grabs a stage backdrop and covers the crowd with it. When they free themselves, he shoots at them with the cannon, and after many shots, one of which propels McDevitt into a garbage can, the Palace is destroyed. Soon after, Cloverdale has returned to its former peaceful state, and Paul, now a police officer, begins to walk his beat. Mary asks to come with him, and when she cries after his refusal, Paul relents and takes her along. He trips and she helps him up, after which they continue, arm in arm. 

Production Company: Harry Langdon Corp.  
Distribution Company: First National Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
  J. Frank Holliday (Asst dir)
Producer: Richard A. Rowland (Pres)
Writer: Arthur Ripley (Story)
  Harry Langdon (Story and titles)
  Clarence Hennecke (Titles)
  Bob Eddy (Titles)
  Hal Conklin (Adpt)
  Frank Capra (Wrt)
  Tim Whelan (Wrt)
  J. Frank Holliday (Wrt)
  Murray Roth (Wrt)
Photography: Elgin Lessley (Dir of photog)
  Glenn Kershner (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lloyd Brierly (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harold Young (Film ed)
Production Misc: William H. Jenner (Prod mgr)
  Denver Harmon (Elec)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
First National Pictures, Inc. 31/8/1926 dd/mm/yyyy LP23063

Physical Properties: Si:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Belgian Americans
  Blindness
  German Americans
  Romance
  Strong men
  Vaudeville
  World War I
 
Subjects (Minor): Bootleggers
  Detectives
  Drunkenness
  Fights
  Impersonation and imposture
  Letters
  Music halls
  Photographs
  Prisoners of war
  Soldiers

Note: The film's working title was The Yes Man . The print viewed was a video presentation by Thames Television, in which Gertrude Astor, known as "Gold Tooth" in contemporary reviews, is called "Lily," and Robert McKim, called "Roy McDevitt" in the same reviews, is called "Mike McDevitt." Modern sources indicate that even in contemporary prints there are discrepencies in these charater names, and so "Gold Tooth" was also called "Lily of Broadway," and "Parson Brown" was also called "Holy Joe." Modern sources list two additional adaptors, Tay Garnett and James Langdon, and an additional titles writer, Reed Heustis. Modern sources also list cast members Brooks Benedict ( Bus passenger ) and Tay Garnett.
       The Strong Man was the first of two films starring Harry Langdon that Capra directed. Capra previously co-directed Langdon in Tramp, Tramp, Tramp , a film that marked his debut as a feature director. According to modern sources, when the film was released in New York, First National placed a forty-foot tall neon sign over the marquis which showed Harry lifting a barbell. According to reviews and news items, the picture was an enormous critical and financial success. Modern sources state that "Zandow's" vaudeville act was based on the act of a real vaudeville star, Eugene Sandow. The gag in which Langdon holds "Gold Tooth" on his lap, scoots up the stairs backwards and then falls over a ladder was repeated in Capra's 1959 film A Hole in the Head

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   9 May 1926   p. 12.
Film Daily   4 Jun 1926   p. 7.
Film Daily   12 Sep1926   p. 6.
Life   14 Oct 1926   p. 28.
MPN   18 Sep 1926   p. 1101.
MPW   15 May 1926   p. 237.
MPW   4 Sep 1926   p. 21, 37
MPW   18 Sep 1926   p. 166.
New York Times   7 Sep 1926   p. 44.
New Yorker   18 Sep 1926   pp. 50-51.
Photoplay   Nov 1926   p. 53.
Variety   8 Sep 1926   p. 16.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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