Though not his motion picture debut as has often been claimed, Seven Keys to Baldpate was George M. Cohan's most popular silent-film effort. Based on the eternally popular play by Cohan and Earl Derr Biggers, the film stars "George M." as George Washington Magee, a mystery novelist suffering from writer's block. Hoping to recharge his creative batteries, Magee accepts a wager from his literary agent and vows to complete a novel within 24 hours. For this purpose, he squirrels himself away in a gloomy old country house called Baldpate, for which (he is told) he owns the only key. As the night progresses, however, it becomes obvious that six other people possess keys to Baldpate -- including a damsel in distress, a couple of crooks, a corrupt sheriff and a "woman of mystery" who is bumped off before Magee's astonished eyes! The "double-trick" ending of the play is perhaps one of the best-known denouements in theatrical history, but out of respect for those who have never seen Seven Keys to Baldpate -- nor any of its five remakes -- we will not divulge the climactic surprise (or surprises). Fortunately, the original Seven Keys to Baldpate still exists, permitting contemporary viewers the rare opportunity of seeing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" Cohan at the height of his powers.
by Hal Erickson synopsis