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  • I screened "One Glorious Day" in a European film archive, from an old nitrate print that was beginning to go bubbly, with most of the original intertitles cut out and French titles spliced in. Despite the problems, this is one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen: a solid combination of action, comedy, romance and supernatural fantasy that's also extremely original. The film's premise resembles H.G. Wells's story "The Stolen Body", but "One Glorious Day" takes that premise in quite a different direction.

    Professor Botts (Will Rogers) is regarded as the town crackpot, because he believes in spiritualism and the transmigration of souls. Botts is in love with Molly, the local beauty (Lila Lee), but he's too shy to tell her how he feels. Ben Wadley (Alan Hale Snr), a local lout, is Botts's rival for Molly's affection. The small town is rife with political corruption, due to Bert Snead (Clarence Burton) and his cronies at the Owl Club.

    Meanwhile, in an other-worldly dimension "where souls are waiting to be born" (as a title card describes it), we see a procession of weird-looking beings, queuing up single-file like paratroopers ready to jump out of a plane. These are human souls, about to be assigned to unborn human bodies. (The title cards clearly state that the human soul inhabits its body BEFORE birth, a claim which might provoke some controversy.) One of these unborn souls is "Ek", short for Ectoplasm.

    "Ek", played by young actor John Fox, is a bizarre creature with ping-pong eyeballs and a spike growing out of his head. (Ek is meant to be a human soul, so why does he look so inhuman?) Ek has missed his proper turn to be born. When told he must go to the end of the queue and start over, Ek indignantly decides to go to Earth and seek a human body for himself.

    Professor Botts has been experimenting with astral projection. We see Will Rogers slumped in his chair, as a ghostly version of the professor's soul (Rogers in double exposure) floats out of his body.

    Suddenly, Ek arrives and steps into the professor's body. We see "Botts" wake up, as Ek takes over his body and immediately starts wreaking havoc.

    Trying out his new body, "Ek" proceeds to do all the things Botts never had the gumption to do. Meanwhile, the professor's soul must tag after him, as an invisible ghost, trying to get his body back. (Will Rogers spends most of the film in double exposure as the disembodied soul of Botts.) Wearing Botts's body, Ek beats up Wadley, wrecks the Owl Club and exposes its corruption. The townspeople who witness these events assume that the cowardly Professor Botts has suddenly turned brave. Meanwhile the real Botts, as a bodiless invisible spirit, floats over to Molly's house in a desperate attempt to contact her from the ghostly plane. She can't see him or hear him, but Botts overhears Molly telling her mother that she is secretly in love with him.

    Finally, Ek decides that he isn't ready for a full-grown body, and he agrees to be born in the normal way: starting out as a baby and working his way up. Ek steps out of Bott's body and lets the professor move in again. Back in his own body, Botts now discovers that he's a hero, and the townspeople want him to run for mayor. And he proposes to Molly.

    Will Rogers (an under-rated actor) gives two excellent performances: one as Botts, and one as the professor's body inhabited by Ek's spirit. John Fox is good too, although in one scene he clearly has difficulty seeing through the weird bulging eyeballs his character wears.

    The film has excellent direction (by James Cruze) and a fine script by Cruze's usual scenarist Walter Woods. In his book about Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the British journalist David Yallop states that "One Glorious Day" was in production (starring Arbuckle as Professor Botts) at the time of the sex scandal that ruined Arbuckle's career, and all of Arbuckle's scenes had to be re-shot with Rogers. This explains one complicated camera set-up late in the film: an exterior long shot in which the character of Ek in Bott's body is doubled by a stuntman who is much too large to pass for Will Rogers, but who strongly resembles Arbuckle.

    "One Glorious Day" is one glorious film. The script makes a few controversial claims about the human soul, which may explain why this movie has lapsed into undeserving obscurity.