Cast & Crew
Sam De Grasse
A cowboy Robin Hood, "Passin' Through" steals money so he can give it to children born out of wedlock, because he believes that his own mother was never married. Then Passin' Through finds out that his birth was a lawful one, but that Bud Frazer, who had once courted his mother, killed her new husband and then hounded her until she died. Passin' Through decides to go after Frazer, not only to avenge his parents, but also to rescue Amy, whom Frazer has kidnapped and whom Passin' Through loves. When he locates Frazer, Passin' Through finds himself outnumbered, but when a posse arrives to help him, he is finally able to kill Frazer and his henchmen, and then goes riding off with his sweetheart.
Sam De Grasse
The Good Bad Man
Director Allan Dwan said that Fairbanks "wasn't doing you a favor in coming to work. It was a real privilege to work with him."
Love made three films with Fairbanks in the early days of silent movies; Dwan made ten. They knew firsthand the meticulous work ethic of one of Hollywood's top box office draws.
Douglas Fairbanks was not just America's first action movie star--he was an action movie star at a time of great anxiety for Americans. Modern technology was making the world a smaller place--distances that once seemed insurmountable were now bridged by airplanes; cultures that once never touched now reveled in each other's motion pictures. And as the world shrank, it also became more violent and threatening. Europe was sinking into the broiling chaos of World War I--would America follow? Should America follow?
Amidst these unquiet debates, Douglas Fairbanks exuded a preternatural calm and all-American self-confidence. He leapt and climbed and swooped, he joked and smiled, he always knew the right thing to do. He was a practical man--trained as an electrical engineer, deeply suspicious of "art." He was a role model in troubled times, and audiences loved him. He ruled the box office for almost 15 years.
He started making movies with D.W. Griffith at Triangle Pictures in 1915, but it was not the best pairing. Fairbanks had an absurdist sense of humor and a flair for comedy, with Griffith did not. Meanwhile there were others at Triangle better suited to Fairbanks' temperament--people like Anita Loos and her partner John Emerson, or Allan Dwan. Together they forged a screen persona for Fairbanks that made for blockbuster entertainment.
If 1916 was an uneasy year for America, it was a busy one for Fairbanks--he made no fewer than eleven motion pictures that year, a quarter of his entire career's work.
One of those 1916 Fairbanks vehicles was a Western about an outlaw by the name of "Passin' Through." Fairbanks wrote and produced the picture, which was directed by one of his favorite directors, Allan Dwan. Behind the camera was a photographer named Victor Fleming--the future director of such classics as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. Fleming took the opportunity on The Good Bad Man to experiment with matte effects and double exposure, the kinds of optical trickery that would serve him in good stead on the lavishly visual films he would make later in his career.
These visual flourishes pleased Dwan, who once held forth that movies "must be pictorial. There must be something to photograph every minute. Something must take place every second. Action--and I do not necessarily mean spectacular or violent action--should be the essence of the screen tale."
When we say that Fairbanks "wrote" The Good Bad Man, what we really mean is that he scribbled down some notes about the themes and major plot points he wanted, and then handed that over to an uncredited professional screenwriter to put onto paper.
Those themes and plot points concern the adventures of an "outlaw" in the sense that, say, Robin Hood or Han Solo was an outlaw--a scoundrel with a heart of gold. A "good bad man," as the popular saying of the day went.
Fairbanks' character "Passin' Through" was a drifter in part because of his disrupted personal history. He does not know his parents, and assumes himself to be a bastard. By the social mores of the time, this was a stigma not easily overcome, no matter how gold-plated one's heart might be. Until a U.S. Marshal (Pomeroy Cannon) informs him of his true, married, parents, "Passin' Through" has every reason to believe his anti-social behavior is his inevitable destiny.
Which is interesting, because Fairbanks himself was the product of similar familial confusion--a haze of alcoholism, desertion, illegitimate births, bigamy, and remarriage. It would be the routine stuff of any reality show today, but was a hard cross to bear in the early twentieth century. Fairbanks worked hard to conceal the problematic details of his past, but they weighed on his mind and influenced his work, never more overtly than in The Good Bad Man.
When Bessie Love heard that she had been selected as Fairbanks' new leading lady, she wanted to thank him--but was advised to make sure she directed her thanks in the right direction. The person responsible for hiring Love was actually the then-Mrs. Fairbanks, Beth Sully, Douglas' de facto manager.
Dwan had an outdoor rehearsal space--or a backyard, depends on your point of view--where Love could practice her sharpshooting with a gun loaded with blanks. Reportedly her too-enthusiastic shooting practice resulted in getting her gun confiscated for the duration.
The completed film debuted as the opening presentation of S.L. "Roxy" Rothapfel's new Rialto Theater in New York City on April 21, 1916. Many years later, in 1923, it was reisussed in an altered form. The recut picture featured new intertitles written by Fairbanks' favored team of Anita Loos and John Emerson that tightened the story in certain respects. Exactly which respects their new script tightened things is up for debate, because no known documents from the original 1916 version survive. The glorious 2014 restored version of The Good Bad Man left the 1923 edits in place. Without an original script, there was no way to reliably turn back the clock on anything but picture quality.
By David Kalat
Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It
Richard Koszarski, Hollywood Directors 1914-1940
Frank Miller, Leading Men
Jeffrey Vance, www.SilentFilm.org
The Good Bad Man
The Good Bad Man was re-issued in 1923 in a slightly different form, and copyrighted by Tri-Stone Pictures, Inc. on October 19, 1923 (LP19514).