Such was Richard Barthelmess' popularity in 1927 that audiences were willing to sit through all 12 reels (approximately 130 minutes) of The Patent Leather Kid. Barthelmess plays a cocky prizefighter who isn't the least bit concerned when America enters World War 1. Doing his best to avoid the army, the boxer is shamed into signing up by his girl friend Molly O'Day. Once on the battlefields of France, Barthelmess forsakes his previous selfishness and begins to pull together with his buddies. While performing a conspicous act of bravery, he is permanently crippled. The finale, in which the paraplegic Barthelmess painfully and courageously salutes the American flag, is still capable of reducing an audience to tears.
by Hal Erickson synopsis