The Douglas MacLean Collection (DVD)

During the late 1910s and through 1920s, Douglas MacLean enjoyed stardom in a series of light comic films. Most of his cinematic output has been lost and his surviving work is almost never revived.

This new DVD pairs of MacLean’s most popular films. “One a Minute” (1921) has MacLean as a college graduate returning to his rural hometown to save his father’s small drugstore from a larger retail competitor. “Bell Boy 13” (1923) finds MacLean at odds with his wealthy uncle over the younger man’s potential bride – he wants a pretty young actress while the uncle is pushing the homely daughter of an elderly reverend.

During the peak of his career, MacLean told an interviewer, “I don’t try to make my pictures comic. I try to make them entertaining.” Indeed, neither film is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but they offer an amusing charm as the can-do spirit of MacLean is constantly tested by mildly ridiculous situations. Both films run less than an hour, which might make them slight on their own terms but would have been the perfect length back in the day if they were part of a program that included a second feature and short subjects.

A bonus short on this DVD, “A Trip Through the World’s Greatest Motion Picture Studios” (1920), is a fascinating documentary on the Thomas H. Ince studios where MacLean worked. All three films in this collection feature new music scores by Ben Model that provide perfect audio accompaniment to these silent gems.