Blue Jeans (1917)

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For years, it was a "given" that no director of merit ever emerged from the old Edison studios. This assertion was disproved when several of the films directed by Edison alumnus John H. Collins were rediscovered in the late 1970s. One of the best of Collins' efforts (and, sadly, one of his last) was the six-reel Metro drama Blue Jeans. Based on an old stage play, the film was set in Hill Country, where a long-standing family feud causes trouble for feisty heroine June (played by Collins' talented wife Viola Dana. The climax is that old "meller-drammer" standy, the Hero Strapped to a Log in the Sawmill. Despite the silliness of the situation, Collins plays it dead straight, and the scene is almost unbearably suspenseful (incidentally, the heroine comes to the rescue, thereby reversing the usual cliché). Blue Jeans was exceptionally well cast, with several familiar faces (including John Ford stock-company perennial Russell Simpson) performing above and beyond the call of duty. Alas, John H. Collins would soon fall victim to the influenza epidemic of 1918, robbing the screen of one of its most potent pioneering talents.