Hands Up!

Raymond Griffith, one of the forgotten comedy stars of the silent era, starred in a 1926 film called “Hands Up!”, a funny comedy about a Confederate spy working to steal Nevada gold before the Union gets it.  The gags come fast and constantly, as Griffith takes a stagecoach across the country, meets the pretty daughters of a gold mine operator, and tries to sabotage the efforts of a Union army captain.

Raymond Griffith (center) gets intimate on a stagecoach with Marian Nixon (left) and Virginia Lee Corbin.

Griffith, as the dapper and crafty Jack, plays his role mostly in a top hat, suit and cape.  He seems more like a magician than a spy, and he uses his full satchel of tricks to get the gold.  One set piece involves his appearance before a firing squad, where he flings dishes in the air as the confused squad fires at them.  Another scene features Jack as he charms the gold mine owner’s daughters on the stagecoach while being completely oblivious of an Indian attack.

Hands Up! is on the National Registry, the United States National Film Preservation Board’s list of films for preservation at the Library of Congress.  The film reportedly made more money than the much better known Civil War Film, “The General,” starring Buster Keaton.  A DVD of the movie does not seem to be available now, but it’s well worth seeing; audiences will appreciate the sophisticated and graceful comedy style of Raymond Griffith.

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