One Dollar Bid (1918)

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Knowing a good thing when they had one, Universal continued to team J. Warren Kerrigan and Lois Wilson in such five-reel "specials" as One Dollar Bid. The scene is a tiny backwater Kentucky town, where Toby (Kerrigan), a genial drunkard, delights the local children by spinning fanciful tall tales and teaching them to read and write. He also whittles small toys for the kids, or at least he does until his knife breaks. Gathering together their pennies, the kids try to raise enough money to buy Toby a new knife. The villagers incorrectly assume that their children are supplying Toby with liquor money, whereupon they exhume an old Kentucky law which permits them to auction off Toby as an indentured servant. Horrified by this barbaric practice, visiting heiress Virginia Dare (Lois Wilson) "purchases" Toby for the munificent sum of one dollar, half-hoping to get the man to reform his ways. Toby instantly falls in love with Virginia and promptly swears off booze, which infuriates local bootlegger Dink Wallerby (Jess Herring) -- not to mention Dink's daughter Nell (Elvira Weil), who has long carried a torch for Toby. Impressed by Toby's sincerity, Virginia's father Colonel Dare (Joseph J. Dowling) offers our hero a position of responsibility on the family plantation. This does not sit well with Virginia's beau Ralph Patterson (Arthur Allardt), and when Dink vengefully kills a man with Toby's knife, Ralph wastes no time in accusing Toby of the murder. Placed on trial, Toby seems doomed to hang when the conscience-stricken Nell shows up to accuse her father of the crime. An additional last-minute plot twist suddenly transforms Toby into an "acceptable" sweetheart for Virginia, and all is well. Somewhat wasted in the role of Nell's sister Emily was future leading lady Leatrice Joy.