Mayor of Filbert (1919)

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Mayor Schmidt of Filbert (Jack Richardson) is a pretty nasty guy -- a Germanic elitist who is head of a crooked ring of politicians and who owns several saloons. The Civic Reform Society (the film's good guys) want him out of office. One evening they call Schmidt into conference and he has a heart attack. The reform members are at a loss about what to do -- the man is apparently dead -- until they find Charles Smith (Richardson again), who is a dead ringer for the mayor. So they enlist him as an impostor and place Schmidt in a vault. But Schmidt, it turns out, isn't really dead. He escapes to a neighboring town, a victim of amnesia. Everything seems to be working out fine, except that the impostor shows a weakness towards the evil dollar. To halt this interest, he is distracted with Molly Vaughan (Belle Bennett), and she keeps him in line. She was betrayed by Schmidt and is raising the illegitimate son (none other than popular kid actor Ben Alexander) of her sister -- Schmidt was the papa. One day the little boy wanders into one of Schmidt's sleazy saloons and Smith has to rescue both him and Molly. Smith's upstanding behavior marks him as a fake, and the real mayor makes a belated appearance, aching to get his hands on Smith. During the ensuing struggle, Schmidt's henchmen mistakenly shoot their own man. Finally the truth is brought out -- Schmidt and Smith are twins, one Americanized, one not. Smith winds up wining the election and the girl. This standard melodrama was meant, in part, as a propaganda film in favor of prohibition. The problem with that was it was released less than two months before Prohibition was to take effect -- in other words, the war had already been won.