splash  It’s the Old Army Game is a comedy about a small town druggist (played by W.C. Fields) who gets involved with a real estate scam. Louise Brooks plays the druggist’s assistant, and love interest. The film was Brooks’ fourth, and it reunited her with the Fields, the film’s star. The two had worked together in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925.

In its review, the Newark Star-Eagle stated, “This picture not only affords a good deal of typical Fields comedy in a suitable story frame, but also reveals the possibilities of Louise Brooks, Follies girl who is making decidedly good in the cinema. . . . All told, Fields need not regret his first Paramount production. Louise Brooks, with a touch of piquancy, a good range of registration, and the conception of restraint, is pleasing as the heroine.”

It’s the Old Army Game was originally announced as starring Fields and future “It girl” Clara Bow, but she was shooting Mantrap (1926), so the female lead fell to Brooks. Exhibitor’s Herald stated, “Louise Brooks is the other important person in the picture and, as insinuated rather bluntly on the occasion of her first appearance — in The American Venus — she’s important. Miss Brooks isn’t like anybody else. Nor has she a distinguishing characteristic which may be singled out for purposes of identification. She’s just a very definite personality. She doesn’t do much, perhaps because there isn’t much to do but probably because she hits hardest when doing nothing, but nobody looks away when she’s on screen. If Miss Glyn should say that Miss Brooks has ‘it,’ more people would know what Miss Glyn is raving about. But in that case she would not be raving.”

The Portland Oregonian noted “Louise Brooks, the pert young woman who will be remembered for her work in The American Venus and A Social Celebrity, the latter with Adolphe Menjou, has the lead role opposite Fields. She poses a bit. An excuse was found to get her into a bathing suit too, which wasn’t a bad move, on the whole.” 

It’s the Old Army Game received mostly positive reviews, though some critics noted its rather thin plot. Algonquin Round Table playwright Robert E. Sherwood (who would go on to win four Pulitzer Prizes and an Academy Award) was then writing reviews for Life magazine. His pithy critique read, “Mr. Fields has to carry the entire production on his shoulders, with some slight assistance from the sparkling Louise Brooks.” Ella H. McCormick of the Detroit Free Press countered with Fields scored a splendid triumph in this picture. A great part of the success of the offering, however, is due to Louise Brooks, who takes the lead feminine part.”

Today, It’s the Old Army Game is largely remembered as a starring vehicle for Fields — a comedic great, It is also remembered for the fact that not long after the film wrapped, Brooks married the film’s director, Eddie Sutherland.

“Elmer Prettywillie, the village druggist, is awakened by a woman who needs a 2-cent stamp in the middle of the night. Seeking again a state of somnolence, Prettywillie must contend with the clamorous collectors of garbage, and with those of his own castle who have caught forty winks and then some. The letter-carrying lady, in trying to post her missive, manages to summon the city’s fire department to the pharmacy where, unable to find a fire, they sit and sip sodas while Prettywillie panders to their every want. When they leave, a bit of a blaze does erupt, but Prettywillie is forced to his own resources. Meanwhile, George Parker is smitten with Elmer’s buxom assistant and uses the storefront to promote a bogus land deal. The Prettywillie fortune is thus inflated, enabling the purchase of a flivver, but Elmer ends up wrecking a Florida estate and finally the flivver, foiling the schemers and delighting the denizens of the town, whose jubilation Elmer takes for an acute case of distemper. He jails himself for safekeeping.”


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The film, especially interiors, were shot at Paramount’s Astoria Studios on Long Island (located at 3412 36th Street in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens) and in Manhattan. Location shooting, including exteriors, was done in Ocala and Palm Beach, Florida in February, 1926.


W.C. Fields
Elmer Prettywillie
Louise Brooks
Mildred Marshall
Blanche Ring
Tessie Overholt
William Gaxton
George Parker (George Delevan)
Mary Foy
Sarah Pancoast
Mickey Bennett
Josephine Dunn
Society Bather
Jack Luden
Society Bather
George Currie
Elise Cavanna
Early morning customer (uncredited)
John Merton
Fireman (uncredited)


Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky
Associate Producer:
William LeBaron (Eastern Studio)
A. Edward Sutherland
Writing Credits:
J. P. McEvoy (story), Thomas J. Geraghty and J. Clarkson Miller (screenplay), Ralph Spence (titles)
Silent – black & white
Alvin Wyckoff
Film Editor:
Thomas J. Geraghty
Running Time:
7 reels (6,889 feet)
May 25, 1926 by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (LP22763)
Release Date:
May 25, 1926
Atlanta, Georgia (other early screenings took place in Hartford, Connecticut and Indianapolis, Indiana)
Country of Origin:
United States

Under its American title, It’s the Old Army Game, documented screenings of the film took place in Australia, Canada, England, Jamaica, Japan, and New Zealand. In Czechoslovakia the film was promoted under the title The Old Army Game. Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been shown under other-language titles including Die Strake des Grauens (Germany);El boticario rural (Argentina); Een Apothekersstreek (Belgium); To je starí hra armády (Czechoslovakia); Un Conte D’Apothicaire (France); チョビ髯大将 (Japan); Un Conte d’hapoticaire! (Luxembourg); El Boticario Rural (Mexico); Pierewaaier — Pilledraaier (The Netherlands); El boticario rural (Spain); and Mannen som gör vad som faller honom in (Sweden).

The film is extant. Copies are held at the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique (Bruxelles), Cineteca Del Friuli (Gemona), Library of Congress (Washington D.C.) George Eastman House (Rochester), BFI/National Film and Television Archive (London), and Harvard Film Archive (Cambridge). It has been released for home video on VHS and DVD by various companies, which according to a page on silentera.com, were likely mastered from a 16mm reduction print. Most of those earlier releases are out-of-print. Rumor has it the film will be released on Blu-ray in 2016.

— “The Screen; Commander Byrd’s Film“, by Mordaunt Hall (New York Times, July 5, 1926)

TRIVIA: about the film

— Clarence Badger was originally assigned to directed the film. It was soon turned over to A. Edward Sutherland, billed as Eddie Sutherland. He and Brooks married in June 1926, and divorced in June 1928.

— The source of the film’s story was a series of sketches written by J. P. McEvoy for Fields 1924 show The Comic Supplement, portions of which were incorporated into Fields’ act in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925. [Bits from The Comic Supplement as well as It’s the Old Army Game were also the basis for Fields’ 1934 film It’s a Gift.]

— The film features the popular stage actress Blanche Ring (1871 – 1961) in one of her few film appearances. Ring was Eddie Sutherland’s aunt. Ring’s sister was Frances Ring, who was married to Thomas Meighan, a popular stage and film actor who appeared with Brooks in The City Gone Wild (1927). Ever hopeful, Blanche Ring was married four times, the last time being to Charles Winninger, a popular character actor who appeared in God’s Gift to Women (1931) with Brooks.

— Outdoor scenes in Palm Beach, Florida were shot at El Mirasol, the estate of multi-millionaire investment banker Edward T. Stotesbury. In 1912, after having been a widower for thirty-some years, Stotesbury remarried and became the stepfather of three children including Henrietta Louise Cromwell Brooks (known simply as Louise Brooks), an American socialite and the first wife of General Douglas MacArthur. In her heyday, she was “considered one of Washington’s most beautiful and attractive young women”. Because of their names, the two women were sometimes confused in the press. (Read more about this Palm Beach location on silentlocations.com.)