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.
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