Little Old New York (1923)





Director:     Sidney Olcott.

Starring:     Marion Davies (Patricia O'Day),  Stephen Carr (Patrick O'Day),  J.M. Kerrigan (John O'Day),  Harrison Ford (Larry Delevan),  Courtenay Foote (Robert Fulton),  Mahlon Hamilton (Washington Irving),  Norval Keedwell (Fitz Greene Halleck),  George Barraud (Henry Brevoort),  Sam Hardy (Cornelius Vanderbilt),  Andrew Dillon (John Jacob Astor),  Riley Hatch (Philip Schuyler),  Charles Kennedy (Reilly),  Spencer Charters (Bunny),  Harry Watson (Bully Boy Brewster),  Louis Wolheim (The Hoboken Terror),  Charles Judels (Delmonica),  Gypsy O'Brien (Ariana du Puyster),  Mary Kennedy (Betty Schuyler),  Elizabeth Murray (Rachel Brewster),  Thomas Findley (Chancellor Livingston),  Marie Burke (Mrs. Schuyler).

silent movie; 1807, Robert Fulton and his steamboat run into some nasty opposition




Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

"The early years of the nineteenth century find Bowling Green the center of the activities of little old New York."

A new fire engine brings out a lot of volunteer fire-fighters.  A young man named Washington Irving is one of the volunteers.  Another fire-fighter is Bully Boy Brewster, who is an aspiring boxer.  There were many other important men of the time.  Lorenzo Delmonico was once a milk man in New Jersey, but has established a restaurant known as Delmonicos in New York.  Fitz Green Halleck is the pleasure-loving secretary of wealthy man John Jacob Astor.  Henry Brevoort is a "man-about-town".  They like to eat at Delmonicos.  At his office is Dutchman John Jacob Astor who is a piano agent, fur merchant, real estate dealer and leading citizen.  Cornelius Vanderbilt runs a ferry boat from the Battery (at the tip of Manhattan) to Staten Island.  Then there is Chancellor Robert Livingston, whose daughter is engaged to marry young Robert Fulton. 

Robert Fulton and Cornelius Vanderbilt go in to speak with Mr. Astor about the possibility of his backing the inventor Robert and his idea for a steamboat.  They show Astor a model of the ship.  The men would like a loan of $10,000 dollars.  Astor declares the idea to be an impractical dream.  Vanderbilt says he has mortgaged his Staten Island ferry to back Fulton's idea.  Astor excuses himself to go to Lawrence Delavan's place for the reading of his stepfather's will.

Fulton and Vanderbilt wonder if Larry Delavan, who stands to inherit almost a million dollars, will invest $10,000 dollars into the steamboat idea.  The stepfather Richard O'Day had no apparent heir but his stepson.  Larry's sweetheart Ariana du Puyster postpones a trip to London because of her interest in what Larry may inherit.  Also present are Philip Schuyler, the city's leading banker, his wife and daughter Betty.  Things, however, don't go well for Larry Delavan.  His step-father leaves his entire estate to Patrick O'Day, his nephew, son of his brother, who loaned Richard the money to come to America.  The stepfather makes Delavan the sole guardian of Patrick O'Day.  For this Delavan will receive Richard's house in New York and $500 dollars per month for his duties.  There's a catch in the will.  If Patrick O'Day cannot be found within one year, the entire state shall go to Delavan. 

"In Ireland --  the most distressful country that ever yet was seen  -- live the poverty-stricken relatives of the rich O'Day."  The landlords of the time are busy evicting poor debtors from their houses.  They come to the O'Day house for this purpose, but Patricia O'Day chases them out, saying that her poor brother is very sick.  Mr. John O'Day calms his daughter enough so the landlord can show them the eviction notice.  Patricia asks for some time from the landlord for she is sure that her rich uncle in America will help them with their finances.  Mr. O'Day, however, says he would never ask his brother for money.  His brother forgot him and his children as soon as he became wealthy.  With that said, the movers start taking out all the furniture in the house.

A solicitor arrives and tells John that his brother has died and left his entire fortune to young Patrick O'Day.  The family is shocked.  The solicitor pays off the landlord, who now leaves.  The lawyer warns John and his family that Patrick has only two months left in which to reach New York City or the money will go to Richard's stepson, Lawrence Delavan.  That very night, Patricia, Johan and Patrick leave for New York. 

In New York it is the last day of the one year waiting period and Delavan throws a party.  Robert Fulton arrives along with Vanderbilt.  Vanderbilt says they have come to inquire about the loan of $10,000 dollars.  Delavan tells them not to worry for at midnight tonight, he will inherit his step-father's estates.  The small group of men there give a toast for Robert's ship, the Clermont.  After the toast Vanderbilt and Fulton leave.  Punch is brought out to celebrate Delavan's inheritance. 

But there is a knock on the door.  John and Patricia O'Day have come to claim Patrick's inheritance.  Patricia is dressed like a boy and has short hair.  She is playing the role of her brother. 

Without his inheritance, Delavan has a hard time raising the $10,000 for the Clermont.  Fulton and Vanderbilt come to ask Larry if he thinks he can raise the money.  Patricia watches the men from a first floor window.  Larry promises the men to raise the money within a month.  Patricia as Patrick asks Delavan, if she could be of some help.  Larry dismisses the idea. 

Patricia is outside.  Three guys from the neighborhood see "him" standing outside and go over to speak with "him".  They get into an argument, then the three jump on "Patrick".  Patrick even gets slugged.  Delavan and his man Reilly chase the boys off.  Delavan says:  "Sure, he's the most disappointing Irish lad for his years and size I have every seen!"  He asks "Patrick" what did he do in Ireland?  "Patrick" says he used to play the harp.  The two men just look disgusted. 

The next day "Patrick" sees a law breaker being punished by being put in the stocks.  The kids who come around to stare at the man throw things at him.  "Patrick" doesn't like what "he" sees.   Later he see Ariana, just back from London,   lording it over Larry.  When "Patrick" steps up to meet Ariana, "he" refuses to kiss her proffered hand.  Larry scolds "Patrick" for his being "impossible".  Patrick answers back, that he's not the only one who is impossible (referring to Ariana).  Larry sends Patrick into the house. 

With all his troubles, Larry sits in the house very troubled.  Patrick plays the harp and sings a song for for him.  Larry tells him that the song is a fine one.  Now Patrick asks him:  "Sure, if it's Mr. Fulton's money you are worrying about, sir, couldn't I be letting you have some of my inheritance? "  And again, Larry dismisses the idea.  Larry's friends arrive to take him to a cockfight in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Patricia seems to have fallen in love with Larry. 

From his bed, John tells his daughter that his death is near.  Just before he dies, he makes her swear to trick the last living Delavan.  She doesn't want to, but she does swear to it.  Her father dies.  Reilly comes in with the Catholic priest.  They have Patricia leave the room.  Downstairs she cries and cries.  When Mr. Delavan returns, Reilly tells him about the death of John O'Day.  He goes over to try and comfort "Patrick". 

It is now the day before the trial trip of the Clermont.  Patrick goes over to see Mr. Astor.  He tells Astor that he wants $10,000 dollars of his money to invest for Mr. Delavan in Fulton's steamboat.  Astor is opposed to the "foolish" notion of the steamboat.  He is willing, however, to invest $10,000 dollars into real estate for Patrick.  Patrick says he wants to learn how to invest in real estate so he can do the business himself.  Now Astor says he thinks O'Day will become an important man. 

Henry Brevoort tells gay stories at Larry's dinner party.  Patrick comes down and the men invite him to sit down at the table.  They have him smoke one of their pipes until he feels sick.  He has to sit down. 

The Schuylers give a huge ball in honor of Mr. Fulton.  Larry with his buddies and Patrick attend the ball.  One of the young ladies at the ball takes a liking to Patrick.  Larry makes Patrick go over and talk to the girl, while he dances with Ariana.  Patrick does not like seeing Larry dancing with the stuck-up Ariana and she keeps and eye on him.  When Larry and Ariana comes over, Patrick insults Ariana's singing.  This makes Larry mad and he grabs Patrick by the ear and marches him outside for a scolding.  Patrick starts to go back home, but Reilly chides him into staying by talking about Ariana's beautiful singing.  So Patrick grabs his harp and starts playing and singing while Ariana is singing.  Larry comes out to listen to Patrick's song and to say he is sorry for being so harsh with him. 

August 7, 1807.  New York turns out to laugh at "Fulton's Folly".  Astor gives Patrick a draft for $10,000 dollars.  Patrick talks Astor into letting him do it by himself.  Astor wants Halleck to go with him at least.  So Patrick says that he will meet Mr. Halleck down at the Clermont landing.  Patrick takes a coach down to the landing.  There he sees Larry.  Patrick gets to go in a boat taking a few people to the Clermont.  Mr. Schuyler says he would pay $20,000 dollars for a third of the investment in the ship.  But Schuyler is informed that Mr. Delavan is providing the $10,000 dollars for the investment.  And they expect Larry to give them the money by this afternoon.  Larry says it will take him another week or so to get the money.  That, however, is not acceptable to the other investors   They need the money now.  Larry turns away to go sit elsewhere. 

Now the men offer the investment to Schuyler.  Patrick quickly goes over to Larry, who tells him it's the end of the Delavans.  Patrick says:  "Sure, it may be the end of the Delavans, but it's just the start of the O'Days."  She rushes back over to the investors.  Schuyler laughs at Patrick, until Patrick flashes the check for $10,000 dollars. Schuyler is furious with Patrick and walks away sullenly.  Fulton and Vanderbilt go over to Larry.  Larry is very grateful and shakes the hands of his business partners.  After Fulton and Vanderbilt leave, Larry says that now he has to admit that Patrick is "a pretty decent youngster".   Patrick lays his head on Larry's shoulder and Larry scolds him:   "Pat, stop it, you act like a girl." 

The trial of the Clermont proves very successful.  Patrick gets the honor of raising the flag over the Clermont.  In the evening, Mr. Delavan gambles to try to get the $10,000 dollars.  A woman asks Delavan if he will back her brother in a boxing match against the Hoboken Terror.  But Larry, and everyone else, thinks this man Brewster is too light to face the Hoboken Terror.  One wealthy man says he will give five to one odds that the Hoboken Terror will win the match.  Larry takes the bet.  He offers his house as the security for the wager. 

Bully Boy Brewster goes up against the Hoboken Terror.  Reilly helps Patrick get into the fight.  But Bunny the police officer tells Reilly that minors are not allowed into see a fight.  Just then the doors are opened and hundreds of men file in, pushing Bunny out of the way.  Patrick gets up and says he will sing an Irish song for the men if they will let him stay.  They agree and he sings and dances.  A man in the crowd gets up and dances with Patrick in the ring.  Larry sees Patrick dancing and stops it.  He tells Patrick to go home. 

The two fighters enter the ring.  Patrick doesn't go home.  He sneaks around to the upstairs in the back.  Brewster surprises everyone by being so fast that he continually hits the Hoboken Terror and knocks him down in the first round.  The Terror does a lot better in the second round and knocks Brewster around the ring.  The Terror knocks Brewster down.  In his corner Brewster says he is just leading the Terror on.  In the third round Brewster knocks down the Terror because he turned his back on Brewster to talk to someone in the crowd and got knocked down.  Patrick is so worried about the outcome for Brewster that she rings the fire bell.  Everyone grabs the fire engine and off they go to fight the fire.  Larry finds out that it was Patrick who rang the bell to save Brewster.  Brewster's sister threatens to tell the crowd who rang the bell.  Larry and the guys take Patrick home. 

Brewster's sister says that Delavan rang the bell.  So the Terror and the mob run toward Delavan's house.  Delavan goes out there to face the Terror and the mob.  The mob shouts to hang Larry, but Patrick comes out to say he did it.  The mob grabs Patrick to hang him.  Instead, they tie him to the whipping post.  The Terror gives him four lashes, then pulls the back of his shirt off.  Patrick finally declares that she is a girl.  The Terror is shocked and unties her.  Now he seems taken by her beauty.  Larry arrives and socks the Terror, knocking him down and out.  The fire department now puts the water hoses on the mob and they run for lit. 

Larry and the fellows get Patricia back home.  She again says she is a girl.  Patricia now tells Larry that she is sorry for what she did.  But Larry says he's happy she's a girl. 

The next day Mrs. Schuyler brings a lot of clothes over for Patricia, who puts on a very lovely dress and comes downstairs.  Larry is shocked at how beautiful she is.  Just then Bunny comes to the house to say he has a warrant for a girl, who once was known as Patrick.  Patricia tells her whole story before the Town Council.  She explains that her brother died aboard ship during one of the many storms that afflicted their voyage to America.  Her father came up with the idea of Patricia playing the part of her brother Patrick.  Dad tells everyone that Patricia is the one who died during the storm, not Patrick.  "Patricia" was then buried at sea. 

The Town Council decides to fine her, but the Council itself will pay the fine.  Everyone seems happy about the verdict.  Astor suggests that she return to London for awhile.  Larry tells Patricia that he and Reilly will be very lonesome without her.  Patricia says she also will be very lonesome.  So Larry asks Patricia to marry him.  But what about Astor saying that she had to go to London?  So Larry decides to go with Patricia to London. 


This is primarily a love story.  A love story that drops a lot of important names in the history of New York City and the nation.  This was the age of the first period of the super rich of the United States.  The Astors are the ones that established American "Society" for the wealthy.  And Mrs. Vanderbilt of the newly rich had to do some tricky maneuvering in order to get herself into Mrs. Astor's Society.  One prominent name I find missing is that of the railway tycoon Jay Gould.  The story of the battle between Vanderbilt and Gould for control of the railways in their area is a fascinating one, but not told in this film.  Marion Davies was very good as Patricia/Patrick.  Of course, she would never have been able to pass as a boy, but sometimes one has to suspend one's disbelief.  There is a bit of farce in the film with all the maneuvering Patricia/Patrick had to do to get what she wanted.  I read that this was Davies first comedy, at which she was to excel later. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 




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