The Men of Zanzibar (1922)

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Rowland V. Lee directed this mystery -- based on the novel by Richard Harding Davis, a popular author of the day -- in a crisp, easy-to-follow fashion. Brownwell, a bank cashier, has absconded with a lot of money and hightailed it to Zanzibar. Since he is known to have a beard, the similarly bearded Hugh Hemingway (William Russell) becomes a suspect when he arrives at the hotel. Even more suspicion is thrown on him when he shaves off the facial hair, until another hirsute fellow shows up and shaves off his beard. And these aren't the only folks who seem to be behaving suspiciously. Director Lee keeps the audience guessing throughout the picture; the only character not under suspicion is Russell's character because he's the star, but a lot of intrigue goes on before he is finally vindicated. Although the mystery element worked smoothly, Lee did make a mistake by allowing Harvey Clark do a comic portrayal of American consul Wilbur Harris -- there was really no place for funny stuff in this picture.