User Reviews (9)

Add a Review

  • Another of the "Haines Formula" films from MGM in the late silent era casts William Haines as a wealthy polo player, but because this is a Haines film, he's also a swell-headed, brash, brat. He meets a girl (Alice Day) and of course her father (Hobart Bosworth) is also a polo player and she's being pursued by the polo team captain (Jack Holt).

    The Haines films were the "feel good" movies of their day. Haines was a terrific comic actor, never afraid of making a total ass of himself. Part of the fun of a Haines film is seeing how bratty and obnoxious he can get because you know he'll get his comeuppance through some "rite of passage" and become a man, win the girl, and save the day.

    THE SMART SET is filled with nice comedy bits of business until the big dramatic finale. Holt and Day are OK, and Haines is front and center as STAR. Haines covered most sports and arms of the military in making his films so that the "big game" finale is almost unimportant. He's made the change to manhood and that's really what the finale is about.

    I can't think of another actor who could have gotten away with the comic antics Haines displays on screen. The gay subtext is impossible not to see now but apparently contemporary audiences were pretty much unaware. Haines could certainly have made it in films simply by being a romantic leading man--he had the looks. But he invented a unique character in films: the bratty silly goof who always goes too far before he realizes his mistakes. The character didn't play quite so well in talkies but Haines continued the basic formula in most of his films.

    Jack Holt starred in a few films with Ralph Graves that seemed to be trying to copy this formula--DIRIGIBLE and FLIGHT come to mind--but without Haines the films were pale copies. Alice Day was the sister of Marceline Day.

    Haines made about a dozen talkies, including cameos as himself in a few films. The films were popular but forgettable, although FAST LIFE, REMOTE CONTROL, JUST A GIGOLO, and GET-RICH-QUICK WALLINGFORD are all pretty good.
  • bkoganbing2 December 2007
    The Smart Set is the only film I know based on polo. It's not a sport that attracts popular attention, the care and feeding of the animals needed to play polo puts it far beyond the means of the average working person to participate. It's not like bowling.

    Not too many people today could tell you who the name polo players are, me included. But in the Golden Age of Sports that the Roaring Twenties was categorized as the Babe Ruth or Jack Dempsey of polo was one Thomas Hitchcock, Jr. who was one colorful character himself. From the horsey set on Long Island, Tommy Hitchcock was among other things a member of the Lafayette Escadrille in World War I, joining as a teen. He was killed in a plane crash in 1941 piloting a test plane for the RAF before America got into that war. Between wars he played a mean game of polo and was quite the society party animal.

    And it's his character that William Haines's character of Tommy Van Buren is based. Most of the clichés involving sports films are present here, it's just that they're new for polo. It's a triangle with Haines and fellow polo player Jack Holt in love with Alice Day, a débutante from Long Island. Of course it all ends in the big championship polo match between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Guess who comes in and saves the day? One guess per reader.

    Haines is cocky and brash, Holt is strong and silent, and Day is sweet and demure. That about sums up their characters. Oh, and Haines plays a mean game of footsie at parties. The stars pretty much fit into the stereotyped characters they normally played. Haines even has a horse he loves like a western cowboy normally does, a crack pinto polo pony called Pronto.

    It's not a bad film and most typical of the parts on the silent and early sound films that William Haines did. But I can't believe that polo would have too wide an audience today.
  • THE SMART SET (1928) is a typical late silent era feature that M.G.M. cranked out to fulfill their quota of fifty (50) plus features a year. Even though a 'small' film it clearly shows that it was made by a major studio and has all the standard M.G.M. gloss.

    THE NUTS; BlowHard and Egocentric Polo Star Thomas 'Tommy' Van Buren (William Haines) is selected to join America's Big Four championship polo team. Upon arrival he manages to put off his teammates starting with team Captain, Nelson (Jack Holt). He promptly moves in on Nelson's intended love interest Polly Durant (Alice Day) who he had met earlier in a failed pickup. Tommy also offends her Father, Mr. Durant (Hobart Bosworth), who he has replaced on the team. Story continues with his suspension from the team an act of heroism and finally redemption in the championship match against Great Britain, winning the girl. Standard stuff all around.

    The main problem with the film is with its Star, matinée idol WILLIAM HAINES. His constant mugging and upstaging of his costars is more appropriate to Mack Sennett then M.G.M. He performs antics in this film that would endear him only to his Mother and only if she was addle headed. Some have commented on that his career failed because of his homosexuality. That may have been true but it was more likely his style did not translate well to the sound era. Not the era of JAMES CAGNEY, GARY COOPER, CLARK GABLE, WILLIAM POWELL, SPENCER TRACY, etc. They defined how a man was to act in sound. In fact his acting in silent films is hard to take today, especially compared to his contemporaries RONALD COLMAN, LON CHANEY, JOHN GILBERT and RAMON NOVARRO. Whos films do hold up well in the 21st Century. As hard to take as HAINES was the rather ordinary looking ALICE DAY. The rest of the cast did the best they could with what little they had to work with.

    Though we gave it a relatively low rating of four (4) stars**** it is still worth a watch at least once. The print on TCM is in fairly good condition and it is interesting to see a film revolving around the sport of Polo. Which appears to be like Hockey on Horses.

    ADDENDUM; Went back too this film today (04/08/09) on TCM too see if a second look would alter our opinion. No, HAINES still comes off as a 'Prissy Ham' with none of the charm he showed in SHOW PEOPLE (1928), the first of his films we had seen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    William Haines plays an obnoxious jerk who manages to take all the positive feelings towards him and fritter it all away. While he plays a very talented man, he is so arrogant that everyone wants to see him fail. Ultimately, Haines is responsible for his own "comeuppance" and it is then up to a humbler Haines to prove that down deep he's a great guy.

    Had I never seen William Haines' film, BROWN OF HARVARD or WESTPOINT or several other Haines vehicles, then I probably would have enjoyed THE SMART SET much more. That's because THE SMART SET is basically the same exact plot, but this time set on the polo fields instead. So, not only do we have the same basic plot involving the arrogant young athlete (Haines), but MGM managed to find sports significantly less entertaining than football and crew. Think about it....who would be particularly interested in polo or the rich folks who love this "sport"? Fortunately, THE SMART SET wasn't all that popular--otherwise Haines might have then gone on to make a film about curling or badminton--about the only sports I can think of less interesting than polo!

    Additionally, while the print just shown on Turner Classic Movies is as close to pristine as I've seen in a while for a silent film, the movie itself also suffers from writing that is several notches below BROWN OF HARVARD. This is mostly due to Haines' character being so awful that the audience is left hating him--even when he, according to formula, makes good. He was hatefully obnoxious--so much that it's impossible to understand how ANY woman could have fallen for him. He laughs at his own jokes, believes he is god's gift to mankind and is thoroughly boorish.

    So, overall, this is a slightly better than average and formulaic film that will surely impress those who love and live for polo....all three of them!
  • Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
    Smart Set, The (1928)

    ** (out of 4)

    An obnoxious polo player (William Haines) thinks he's God's gift to everyone so he starts bothering the girl of his dreams (Alice Day), which doesn't sit too well with her boyfriend (Jack Holt). While the polo player gets on everyone's nerves, nothing really happens until he's kicked off the team, which makes the man think about his ways. This comedy isn't too good and is only really remembered for its actor Haines. Haines, an open homosexual, had his career ended by MGM when he refused to break up with his boyfriend but he went on to find fame as an interior decorator. I had heard mixed things about this film but it certainly didn't work for me. Haines' character is so damn obnoxious and mean you want to see him get the hell beat out of him and his "change" comes so quick that it's not believable for a single second. Alice Day doesn't lend much to her role either but Holt is pretty good in his small, supporting role. The comedy is pretty light and mainly relies on Haines bothering everyone, which again is annoying and not funny.
  • WILLIAM HAINES was Hollywood's early "out of the closet" gay star who became a well-known decorator after he "retired" from his budding film career, thanks to the help of his friend Joan Crawford who had him design her home and led to his successful designer career.

    He's at the center of this amusing comedy about a polo player who can't resist grandstanding all the time and showing his high opinion of himself, much to the annoyance of the girl of his dreams (ALICE DAY) and her boyfriend JACK HOLT.

    The bulk of the story is energetically played and there's lot of physical comedy as he pursues the girl (mostly in an auto chase that is delightfully filmed) and at a swanky dinner affair where he pulls all sorts of stunts to attract her attention, always with the effect of alienating her affections.

    But the last twenty minutes devoted to polo sequences gets a little stale and you begin to miss the comedy aspects that distinguished the first part of the film. The story turns serious with the game about to be lost unless our hero can get in there and play, and there's a stable fire that almost takes the life of his favorite horse during which he becomes the man who leads the horse from the stable.

    All in all, a very diverting piece of entertainment, thanks to the presence and charm of WILLIAM HAINES. He does a lot of mugging and isn't afraid to show his gayness by way of gestures and movements that are quite obvious and even daring by today's standards for a leading man. But he radiates cheerfulness and charm in huge doses throughout.

    Well worth watching, even if there's too much of the polo game on display toward the end.
  • ... but this time the movie disappointed and it was due to Haines' performance. His mugging and manic energy were over the top; who would do more than tolerate this person, if even that? Yes, he's handsome and phenomenally talented with polo, we are told per the movie, and I was prepared to enjoy this movie despite its formulaic plot. What I came away with was, of all things, an appreciation of Jack Holt and polo playing! Holt showed his horse mastery well, and since the sport of polo is intriguing and one I enjoy watching without understanding much of it at all, that entertained me. Sorry, Mr. Haines, but your leading lady's attraction to you mystifies me and it never had before in your films. I am rating this 6 stars because of the high production values and, well, polo.
  • William Haines' character is such an insufferable jerk for most of this picture that the inevitable changing of his ways isn't enough to really put us on his side. He gives a decent performance, though, in an otherwise unremarkable entry.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm not a fan of William Haines, but to my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed this entry. In fact, I thought Haines gave a really good performance. He was delightfully obnoxious at all the right moments and inspiringly sentimental when patriotism was called for. I wondered why I liked him so much in this movie when he portrayed his usual "I'm a God who does exactly what he likes when he likes and I have no respect for you whatever" character. Then it hit me. The people that Haines reviles and makes fools of in this movie are not honest, hard-working folk like you and me – the people he derides in most of his other screen characterizations – but this time the idle rich and the social set are his target. So it was good to see him making fools of the characters played by people like Jack Holt, Alice Day, Julia Swayne Gordon, Constance Howard and Herbert Prior. Admittedly, Haines' antics didn't sit so well with the character played by Hobart Bosworth, but he did give him a bit of respect; and with Coy Watson, "Bill" Haines was decidedly friendly. Director Hugh Ryan (call me "Jack") Conway has handled the proceedings in his usual, fast-moving, highly competent M-G-M style. Available on an excellent Warner Archive DVD.