The First Auto

Overview

Legendary racecar driver Barney Oldfield plays himself in the engaging little period piece The First Auto. Russell Simpson plays livery-stable owner Hank Armstrong, who is appalled beyond words when his son Bob Charles E. Mack comes home with one of those newfangled "horseless carriages." Throwing Bob out of the house, Hank stubbornly sticks to his stable business, only to be driven into bankruptcy by the ever-growing popularity of the automobile. When Bob returns to his hometown to participate in an auto race, ...
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Overview

Legendary racecar driver Barney Oldfield plays himself in the engaging little period piece The First Auto. Russell Simpson plays livery-stable owner Hank Armstrong, who is appalled beyond words when his son Bob Charles E. Mack comes home with one of those newfangled "horseless carriages." Throwing Bob out of the house, Hank stubbornly sticks to his stable business, only to be driven into bankruptcy by the ever-growing popularity of the automobile. When Bob returns to his hometown to participate in an auto race, his father, having temporarily gone off the beam, agrees to sabotage the boy's car to make certain that he loses. Only when he attends the race does Hank realize that he's booby-trapped his own son's vehicle. On cue, the car blows up, but Bob emerges unscathed, setting the stage for an emotional reunion between father and son. Long believed lost, The First Auto has been restored to nearly its original length and has frequently been telecast over the Turner Classic Movies cable service.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
"A horse is practical -- a horse has got sense -- a horse is an animal, you fool!" Says breeder Russell Simpson (via an inter-title, of course) when confronted with an early automobile in this pleasantly nostalgic silent comedy-drama from Warner Bros. In fact, The First Auto, which has been restored by UCLA, is a nostalgic experience in more ways than one. A charming, if sweetly condescending, depiction of how the "horseless carriage" made its triumphant debut in a small town, Roy Del Ruth's little history lesson was also one of the first feature films to arrive complete with a Vitaphone music score and sound effects. Said effects are mainly funny sounds used to exaggerate the action on the screen -- very much as The Three Stooges would years later -- but also include laughter, applause and even a spoken word or two. Such as Russell Simpson attempting to rouse his sleeping son (Charles Emmett Mack) with a resounding, and slightly disconcerting, "BOB!" Mack and Patsy Ruth Miller) (of Hunchback of Notre Dame fame) act the film's romantic couple but are upstaged by a very young William Demarest performing various juggling routines, several well-chosen hillbilly bit-part players and, of course, veteran race-car driver Barney Oldfield recreating how he in 1902 sat the 60 mph speed record, cigar clenched firmly between teeth. Ironically, young Mack, a discovery of D. W. Griffith and almost a dead ringer for Jack Pickford, was killed in an automobile accident near Riverside, CA, during the making of this film.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/16/2009
  • UPC: 883316165249
  • Original Release: 1927
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: B&W / Pan & Scan
  • Time: 1:18:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 66,090

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Barney Oldfield The Master Driver
Patsy Ruth Miller Rose Robbins
Russell Simpson Hank Armstrong
Frank Campeau Mayor Robbins
William Demarest The Village Cut-up
Paul Kruger Steve
Douglas Gerrard Squire Stebbins
Gibson Gowland The Blacksmith
Anders Randolf The Auctioneer
Charles Emmett Mack Bob Armstrong
E.H. Calvert
Technical Credits
Roy Del Ruth Director
Dave Abel Cinematographer
Martin Raymond Bolger Editor
Anthony Coldeway Screenwriter
Esdras Hartley Art Director
Herman S. Heller Score Composer
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer, Screenwriter
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