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  • wiluxe-219 December 2002
    I first saw this film in 1972 in London, shortly after the only extant copy was found. Even this print was incomplete, missing the final reel. As it stands the film ends with Compson and Griffith crossing the border into Mexico, beyond the reach of the gaggle of police who've been chasing them. But the missing reel has Compson having second thoughts about the heist of the necklace--it was, after all, intended to go to the daughter of the necklace's owner on her wedding day. So Compson convinces Griffith to cross back over the border again and on into California and return the necklace to its owners. Which they do, pursued by police cars and motorcycles.

    True, the film is not gag driven; most of the humor comes from the dramatic irony of two rival jewel thieves, Griffith and Compson, making their way into the home where the necklace is kept locked away in a safe, Griffith posing as a police detective who says he's there to make sure the necklace is safe; Compson pretends to be a servant. Griffith and Compson make repeated and often hilarious attempts to steal the necklace while the wedding party is on and the house is full of guests and two bonafide plainclothes police. In one scene Griffith delights the guests by having them hide an item for him to find, while he waits in the next room where the safe is kept, desperately trying to break into it and steal the necklace before he's called back.

    A lot of the humor lies in the tension generated by the thieves' masquerade and by the tension between the two (in an earlier scene Griffith, posing again as a detective, had conned Compson and her gang in San Francisco and made off with a huge sum of their money). One of the funniest scenes in the film takes place while the house is dark and everyone is asleep. Griffith sneaks into the darkened room where the safe is kept. The two cops decide to see if everything's safe and sound and make their way through the rooms of the house with a flashlight. At one point they decide to light a cigarette; the cop with the long-handled flashlight sticks it under his arm, pointing it behind him and illuminating Griffith in the next room, frozen in place and holding the safe in his arms. Neither cop sees him, though one apparently sees something out of the corner of his eye right before the other cop removes the flashlight from under his arm, so that the light no longer shines on Griffith. When they turn to shine the light back into the other room, Griffith is gone. They go into the other room to check it out; but the family dog grabs the flashlight away from the detective, who chases the dog back and forth across the room in a futile attempt to take the light back. While the dog is running around with the flashlight, the light shines on Griffith who is behind the cops and against the opposite wall, holding the safe. The cops, intent on retrieving the flashlight don't see Griffith. Griffith tries desperately to avoid the light, scampering back and forth and onto a couch, only to have the dog follow his every move and constantly illuminating him. Griffith finally sits on the couch with the safe, sighs, holds his hands up in defeat, convinced that it's only a matter of time before he's discovered. But the cops retrieve the light, they never see Griffith, and he escapes from the room.

    Charlie Chaplin used this same gag in THE GOLD RUSH. When Charlie and the other prospector, Big Jim, are in their cabin in the middle of nowhere, starving, they're threatened by another prospector who's entered their cabin with a rifle. Big Jim and the intruder wrestle over the rifle, which is always pointed at Charlie during the struggle; no matter where he runs in the cabin, he can't escape being in the crosshairs of a weapon about to fire and kill him. A very funny sequence, but lifted from PATHS TO PARADISE (just as the 'Dance of the Rolls' in THE GOLD RUSH was lifted from an early Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton silent one-reeler).

    I love this film. When I saw it in London, my stomach ached from laughing so hard. This film IS available on tape; the owner of the one extant copy has them for sale at Grapevine Video.
  • hofnarr19 July 2002
    PATHS TO PARADISE begins in the seedy streets of San Francisco and ends just across the border in Mexico (at least in the 6 of 7 reels version currently extant). Plot lines will be discussed as we go along so don't continue reading this if you want to go into the film cold. Along the way we see Raymond Griffith's character, a man of numerous names ("I always answer pages; you never know what might turn up") turn the tables on a group of con artists (including the "Queen of China") fleecing tourists looking for a view of the seamy side of life using nothing more than his wits and a gas inspector badge.

    He then matches wits with some of that gang, police and detectives in order to obtain a valuable diamond necklace. His major ruse is declaring himself to be a deft detective. He's able to convince the owner of the necklace of this to such an extent that the owner proclaims that this man is "the best detective in the world" to all the guests gathered at his sumptuous party. When the owner notices not all of those present agree, he suggests they hide a watch while the "detective" is in another room. Of course, while the watch is being hidden the "detective" is busily working on the safe.

    Although initially at odds against the "Queen of China", who is working as a maid in the house with the necklace as her goal, they eventually team up to pull off the heist. A policeman wrestling with a dog who's taken his flashlight provides a very humorous scene as no matter how the "detective" (who's decided to nick the whole safe and work on opening it later) moves about, he's continually targeted by the beam of the flashlight. Feeling he's finally been caught, he sits down in exasperation with his hands in the air. Only then does he realize the policeman has no idea of his presence and the action continues.

    After a few more mishaps, twists and turns the couple liberate the necklace and make use of a car to head toward the Mexican border. A police car is in hot pursuit and a call is put out for motorcycle cops from all the cities along the path of the fugitives. From San Luis Obispo on more and more motorcycle cops pour out until it almost looks like an early motocross event! Continued firing by the police manages to puncture one of the wheels of the getaway car. Although the police are not that far behind, the couple are able to stop and effect a change of tires speedily enough to resume their escape. At the end of the 6th reel, they've made it across the border and the police are unwilling to follow across the border due to "international complications". According to reviews of the film when it came out, the 7th reel has the woman feeling guilty about the theft and convincing her companion to return so they can give it back. And as a payoff for the gazillion cops on bikes earlier, apparently each and every one of them slaps a speeding ticket on the car when they do return. (At various times in the chase there are shots of the speedometer at 80 to 100 mph - which would be highly unlikely for the terrain shown).

    All in all a fast-paced, funny film. It's highly unlikely that the 7th reel still exists in viable nitrate . . . but it sure would be fun to see it!
  • Though much of Raymond Griffith's work is lost, this film and Hands Up! have earned him a reputation as one of the most important silent comedians beyond the pantheon names (Chaplin, Keaton, et al.). This is a very sprightly comedy, but those looking for proof of Walter Kerr's contention that Griffith is a comedian in that class will be disappointed. Not because Griffith isn't very skilled, but because he isn't an outright comedian-- not unless you consider William Powell in the same group as the Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello.

    What Paths to Paradise resembles most is sound comedies about cheerfully amoral tuxedoed criminals like Trouble in Paradise, Jewel Robbery or The Lady Eve. Griffith and Betty Compson (who has equal screen time and in fact slightly overshadows Griffith) are rivals who both worm their way into the home of an aged and rather careless zillionaire who has acquired a big diamond. As in those sound films, much of the humor comes from the amoral delight that the criminals take in their work, not in elaborate visual gags. Even when the film climaxes in a primarily visual sequence-- a car chase-- the humor comes not from the sort of frantic, topper-on-topper gag sequence you might expect from Lloyd, say, but from the sheer aplomb with which Griffith changes a tire at high speed without mussing his evening wear. In fact overall his character, with his bemused, droll reactions (and the line readings you imagine to go with them), seems more suited to sound than silence, and it was only Griffith's weak speaking voice (his vocal cords had been damaged earlier in life) that led him to give up acting for producing after sound came in.
  • hte-trasme27 March 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Raymond Griffith starred in a very popular series of comedy features in the 1920s, but today, while very highly regarded by those who have seen his films, he is little known. Unlike many of the other great silent comedians, Griffith has had the misfortune that almost all of his films are lost, and those few that do exist are difficult to find due to rights issues. Fortunately, I was able to locate a DVD of "Paths to Paradise" for sale on the internet.

    This is the first of his comedies that I have seen (well, I saw it minus the missing final ten-minute reel, which still leaves the film ending in a place that makes sense. If you have access to the full version, get in touch with a film archive), and its a brilliant comedy that definitely justifies Griffith's reputation as a master of humorous performance in the silent era.

    I think, apart from the actual material of the extremely clever comedy, a big part of it is that he's simply a great actor, especially suited to the silent film medium. It would be tough to find someone who expresses more with his expressions and motions -- one can virtually hear his delivery of a funny line as we watch what he mouths around the title card.

    Betty Compson, the film's star power at the time, gets an excellent role as a rival, then partner, then love interest to Griffith, who is a master criminal after the biggest jewel in the country. Griffith's signature costume was the white tie and tails that he wore no matter what the situation -- he was known as the "Silk Hat Comedian" -- and here that serves a useful function to the story, gaining him a great deal of credibility in his constant machinations and manipulations.

    We can't help but root far Raymond as he engages in his elaborate thievery (once he is affronted that his honesty is put into question!) and a great deal of the funny and impressive moments take place as we witness more and more impressive demonstrations of his criminal trickery: volunteering to be frisked as he misdirects the jewels with sleight of hand, breaking the safe while showing his skills as the world's greatest detective in a watch-finding parlor trick, etc. There's a great running gag which is probably far, far funnier than it should be in which Griffith answers to a different new surname whenever somebody refers to him.

    Just as Buster Keaton's "The General" is a masterpiece in which almost everything revolves around variations on the situation of one train chasing another, "Paths to Paradise" delivers gold by drawing out countless twists on the simple, extended sequence of Griffith and Compson's characters getting the jewels from the safe. It's wonderfully artfully done, and allows for a lot of great push-and-pull character tension to build up between the two characters. Then there are some simply inspired gags, such as the one involving Griffith hauling a safe back and forth around the couch as he seeks to avoid detection while a policeman fights with his dog for the flashlight.

    Deserving of special mention are the flawlessly constructed first twenty minutes or so, in which it is ever so deliberately, with perfect timing, revealed that Griffith his pretending to be a police officer to get a bribe from a group of criminals who think they have fooled him into thinking they are a sightseer's treat of an opium den, so they can get him to pay them. This kind of slow-reveal, devastating humor is representative and really impressive.

    Then we end with an elaborate car chase that's almost impossible to describe but which would give Keaton a run for his money any day of the week.

    I will certainly be seeking any any more of Raymond Griffith's remaining comedies that I can find.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1926 Robert E. Sherwood wrote that "Raymond Griffith leads all comedians in originality" but in 1927 with the release of Keaton's "The General" it was agreed that Raymond Griffith's "Hands Up" "is deservedly forgotten"!! They didn't know what they were talking about!! Over shadowed by Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and even Langdon, Griffith, with his dapper gentleman like appearance modeled himself on the very popular French comic Max Linder - he became known as the "silk hat comedian". "Paths to Paradise" was thought to be the movie that would place him alongside Chaplin and Keaton - Moving Picture World noted in July 1925 "...nothing short of paralysis of the facial muscles will prevent your laughter"!!!

    In a San Francisco dive, Molly (Betty Compson) and her pals cater to the curiosity of tourists who are seeking a glimpse of the city's low life and underworld. When a "dude" (Griffith) wants to see a real opium den, the gang get busy and involve him in an elaborate hoax in which they make him believe he has killed a man and must pay for their silence but at the last moment he shows his badge and the game is up!! Of course he isn't a policeman but a con man extraordinare who manages to fleece the gang of their day's takings. There is an amazing scene where Griffith, as the policeman, is co-erced into taking a bribe - he conveys all the viewers need to know with his back to the camera and by shrugs of his shoulders!!!

    Molly and he - the man of many names, meet again in a hotel lobby where they are both on the trail of a diamond necklace. Griffith then crashes the mansion posing as a master detective, Molly has a job as a maid. At first they are in competition with each other then admiration leads to a partnership. The funniest sequence here has to do with a flashlight. By this time Griffith has lifted the whole safe but a dopey detective's efforts to light his cigarette has him with his flashlight under his arm and even though we can't see Griffith the wobbly torch puts him in the spotlight. Suddenly the dog grabs the torch and it seems that Griffith can't escape from the circle of light that shines on the walls!! Of course the detectives don't notice as they are too busy playing with the dog!!!

    Once they are on their way to Mexico a marvelous chase is set in motion - hundreds of motorcycle cops spill out onto the road but none can overtake the dynamic duo. Molly and her co-hort even have time to change a tyre before the police can overtake them. They run out of gas - no worries!! while Molly makes eyes at the driver, Griffith is on the back of the truck, siphoning gas into their car. When they finally get to Mexico, annoyingly the film ends as it is missing the last reel. The tantalizing credits at the end suggest that the last reel has an equally dare devil chase back to the mansion to replace the diamonds as Molly and Griffith realise they want to live a life of honesty.

    Raymond Griffith's debonair and natty man about town humor would have been ideal in sound films but because a bout of rheumatic fever reduced his voice to a hoarse whisper, he had to continue on as a writer and producer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I've seen several other silent films from Televista and I must say that this company is both a boon and a curse. On the positive side, they are the only source for several very rare silent films--if you didn't have Televista, you'd have no way to see the movies. On the negative, every single Televista DVD I have seen is a terrible print and appears as if they were taken directly from video with absolutely no restoration work whatsoever. Because the film appears to be a copy of a copy, the print have always been fuzzy and washed out--but are still watchable.

    Betty Compson and Raymond Griffith star in this delightful silent comedy. In many ways, this film seems highly reminiscent of several of William Powell's crime films of the 1932--where he played gentlemen bandits so well. However, this film has a bit more emphasis on comedy, but is still well worth seeing.

    The film begins with a wildly imaginative and funny bit involving the rich tourists who want to see 'local color'. A man is showing a group of shocked tourists one of the seediest hangouts in town--where there is a gang of counterfeiters working on a new batch of money. But only a moment later, a different rich tourist comes along who is expecting to see a Chinese opium den. All at once, the room and occupants make a quick change--now it is an opium den! It seems these scam artists make this dump whatever they are expecting (and paying) to see.

    A bit later, after the gang is given a taste of their own medicine, their leader, Betty, and a rival con-man, Griffith, show up at the same home on the same night to steal the same diamond necklace. At first, they try to outwit each other but later they join forces to get the loot. Then, when the cops arrive, the two give flight and there is a nice little chase scene--with a few innovative touches in this familiar routine--such as their changing a tire and gassing up on the fly (you just have to see it to believe it). Plus, the ending is really strange--and something you probably wouldn't have seen in the days after the strengthened Production Code in 1934.

    Overall, the film is a very nice little comedy with good acting, a nice plot and some very good direction. There isn't a lot I would change in the film--it is enjoyable and pleasant--too bad the print is so ugly. Well worth seeing for silent film buffs as well as the casual silent viewer.
  • If the name Raymond Griffith is familiar today only to historians and silent comedy completists, blame the fact that his reputation rests entirely on two surviving but rarely shown features: 'Paths To Paradise' (1925) and 'Hands Up!' (1926). Neither comedy can match the sublime heights of invention achieved by Keaton, Chaplin or Lloyd (or, in his brief prime, Harry Langdon), but Griffith was an engaging talent who, given time, could have developed into a master craftsman. 'Paths to Paradise' finds him in a fairly typical role, playing a dapper con artist in a high society cat-and-mouse jewel theft caper, matching wits with attractive rival/partner Betty Compson.