17 March 2014 | wes-connors
Sometime after Mexico lost California to the US in 1846, Mexican student Richard Barthelmess (as Francisco "Pancho" Delfino) returns home to his Southern California estate. Although his side lost the war, Mr. Barthelmess is optimistic because the US is allowing Spaniards to keep their land. His attitude changes when Barthelmess discovers Americans gringos are trying to swindle his family out of their wealth. To level the playing field, Barthelmess becomes the bandit "El Puma!" The character is patterned after "Zorro!" and "Robin Hood". Barthelmess appears silly playing a young student from Mexico, especially when he utters Spanish expressions. "The Lash" is an early sound film – the silent film medium accommodated ethnic crossovers nicely (Barthelmess in "Broken Blossoms") and the stage could be even friendlier (Mary Martin as "Peter Pan"). Still, Barthelmess should have known better; his effortless accent shows he probably did...
Others in the cast benefit by not being the lead...
Barthelmess' love-interest is lightly-accented senorita Mary Astor (as Rosita Garcia). Side-kick Arthur Stone (as Juan) looks the part, at least. As the American sheriff, James Rennie (married to Dorothy Gish) best illustrates the unsteady silent-to-sound crossover; his hat and make-up make him look like an old silent screen serial villain, but he's playing a good guy. Little sister Marian Nixon (as Dolores) is the second female lead, but Barbara Bedford (as Lupe) gets the best feminine role. Veteran actors Fred Kohler, Robert Edeson and Erville Alderson are worth seeing. For the time, this was a fine supporting cast and top production. At the time, Barthelmess and director Frank Lloyd were "Academy Award" and audience favorites. Direction by Mr. Lloyd is skillful, traveling well around complicated sets. Unfortunately, editing and speeded-up visuals make the big action sequence, occurring after about 30 minutes of running time, look less than spectacular.
**** The Lash (12/20/30) Frank Lloyd ~ Richard Barthelmess, Mary Astor, James Rennie, Marian Nixon