A Small Town Idol (1921)

Comedy | 16 January 1921

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HISTORY

A Small Town Idol marked writer-producer Mack Sennett’s first production for Associated Producers, of which he was a member, as noted in the 12 Feb 1921 issue of Motion Picture News. According to a 15 Jan 1921 Wid’s Daily item, the picture was Sennett’s biggest undertaking, to that time, having required over a year to make, and costing $350,000. (The 25 Dec 1920 Motion Picture News previously cited a budget of $1,000,000.)
       Concluding scenes were filmed in mid-Nov 1920, as stated in the 20 Nov 1920 Exhibitors Herald.
       The 20 Oct 1920 Wid’s Daily listed a release date of 16 Jan 1921. In Los Angeles, CA, the film debuted at the Mission Theatre. Managing director for the Mission Harry David reportedly sent a telegram praising the film as “Sennett’s greatest picture” and reporting a one-week gross of $13,950, an “unbelievable” feat given the theater only had 880 seats. LAEx reviewer Florence Lawrence also lauded the film, calling it “an instant success.” According to a photo caption in the 11 Apr 1921 Wid’s Daily, A Small Town Idol broke records in its two-week run at Chicago, IL’s Barbee’s Loop Theatre, when it grossed “$1,500 more…in its first week than any previous attraction.” As noted in the 23 Apr 1921 Wid’s Daily, the National Board of Review included the picture on its “Exceptional Photoplays” list.
       The 27 Nov 1920 Wid’s Daily credited Tom Regan with writing continuity. Background actress Peggy Rompers wrote in a Feb 1921 column for The Photo-Play Journal that she had appeared in “a ...

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A Small Town Idol marked writer-producer Mack Sennett’s first production for Associated Producers, of which he was a member, as noted in the 12 Feb 1921 issue of Motion Picture News. According to a 15 Jan 1921 Wid’s Daily item, the picture was Sennett’s biggest undertaking, to that time, having required over a year to make, and costing $350,000. (The 25 Dec 1920 Motion Picture News previously cited a budget of $1,000,000.)
       Concluding scenes were filmed in mid-Nov 1920, as stated in the 20 Nov 1920 Exhibitors Herald.
       The 20 Oct 1920 Wid’s Daily listed a release date of 16 Jan 1921. In Los Angeles, CA, the film debuted at the Mission Theatre. Managing director for the Mission Harry David reportedly sent a telegram praising the film as “Sennett’s greatest picture” and reporting a one-week gross of $13,950, an “unbelievable” feat given the theater only had 880 seats. LAEx reviewer Florence Lawrence also lauded the film, calling it “an instant success.” According to a photo caption in the 11 Apr 1921 Wid’s Daily, A Small Town Idol broke records in its two-week run at Chicago, IL’s Barbee’s Loop Theatre, when it grossed “$1,500 more…in its first week than any previous attraction.” As noted in the 23 Apr 1921 Wid’s Daily, the National Board of Review included the picture on its “Exceptional Photoplays” list.
       The 27 Nov 1920 Wid’s Daily credited Tom Regan with writing continuity. Background actress Peggy Rompers wrote in a Feb 1921 column for The Photo-Play Journal that she had appeared in “a few of the big scenes.” Rompers also attended a screening of “rushes” at a projection room, where she claimed to have seen actress Louise Fazenda, actor John Harron, and filmmaker Malcolm “Mal” St. Clair. The 20 Feb 1921 Wid’s Daily review stated that Louise Fazenda appears in the film, “in the audience of the picture theater.”
       Various contemporary sources cited different running times. Although the 21 Nov 1920 Wid’s Daily chart of current releases listed the film as 5,000 feet (or five reels), most of the later sources, including the 2 Apr 1921 Exhibitors Herald and a 12 Aug 1921 [Perth, Australia] Westralian Worker item, stated that the film was six reels in length. The 20 Feb 1921 Wid’s Daily review complained of the film’s excessive length of over 7,000 feet, and predicted that it would “go all right if it is trimmed closer to five reels.”

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
20 Nov 1920
---
Exhibitors Herald
2 Apr 1921
---
Motion Picture News
2 Oct 1920
---
Motion Picture News
25 Dec 1920
---
Motion Picture News
12 Feb 1921
---
The Photo-Play Journal
Feb 1921
---
Westralian Worker [Perth, Australia]
12 Aug 1921
p. 6
Wid's Daily
20 Oct 1920
---
Wid's Daily
21 Nov 1920
---
Wid's Daily
27 Nov 1920
---
Wid's Daily
15 Jan 1921
p. 1
Wid's Daily
20 Feb 1921
p. 9
Wid's Daily
11 Apr 1921
p. 1
Wid's Daily
23 Apr 1921
---
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 January 1921
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 16 Jan 1921 at Mission Theatre
Production Date:
ended mid-Nov 1920
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Mack Sennett Productions
16 February 1921
LP16165
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Sam Smith is engaged to the village belle until he is accused of stealing by J. Wellington Jones and is driven from town. Chance leads him to a film studio in Los Angeles, where, in desperation, he stands in for an actor who declines to jump off a bridge. Becoming a success as a result, he returns to the town rich and famous but finds himself jailed and threatened with lynching. A confession by the heroine's father finally frees him, and he becomes the "small town ...

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Sam Smith is engaged to the village belle until he is accused of stealing by J. Wellington Jones and is driven from town. Chance leads him to a film studio in Los Angeles, where, in desperation, he stands in for an actor who declines to jump off a bridge. Becoming a success as a result, he returns to the town rich and famous but finds himself jailed and threatened with lynching. A confession by the heroine's father finally frees him, and he becomes the "small town idol."

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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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.