Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Whodunit  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Richard Gilliam

Adapted from a popular Broadway play that he co-wrote and in which he starred, Seven Keys to Baldpate is the best-known film of legendary stage performer George M. Cohan. While Cohan doesn't sing and dance in the film, there is ample evidence of his personal charisma and physical mannerisms. It's interesting to compare the real Cohan to the Oscar-winning impersonation of him by James Cagney in the Cohan-inspired biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. The film itself is a clever mystery, with Cohan as a writer locked away overnight in a supposedly empty resort house. The production is handsomely mounted, and there are some notable secondary aspects -- for example, the word "prostitutes" appears on screen, an unusual occurrence for censorship-sensitive films of this era. It's also amusing to see future gossip maven Hedda Hopper in a supporting role, and to enjoy the realistic sets and exterior sequences. This is the first of six credited film versions of this play, and one of the best mystery films of its era.