Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Henry King|
|Produced by||Henry King|
|Based on||"Tol'able David"
by Joseph Hergesheimer
|Edited by||W. Duncan Mansfield|
|Distributed by||Associated First National|
|Language||Silent (English intertitles)|
In 2007, Tol'able David was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress; films selected are judged to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
- Richard Barthelmess as David Kinemon
- Gladys Hulette as Esther Hatburn
- Walter P. Lewis as Iscah Hatburn
- Ernest Torrence as Luke Hatburn
- Ralph Yearsley as Saul "Little Buzzard" Hatburn
- Forrest Robinson as Grandpa Hatburn
Young David Kinemon, son of West Virginia tenant farmers, longs to be treated like a man by his family and neighbors, especially Esther Hatburn, the pretty girl who lives with her grandfather on a nearby farm. However, he is continually reminded that he is still a boy, "tol'able" enough, but no man.
He eventually gets a chance to prove himself when outlaw Iscah Hatburn and his sons Luke and "Little Buzzard," distant cousins of the Kinemon's Hatburn neighbors, move into the Hatburn farm, against the will of Esther and her grandfather. Esther initially tells David not to interfere, saying he's no match for her cousins. Later, the cousins kill David's pet dog and cripple his older brother while the latter is delivering mail and taking passengers to town in his "hack" wagon. David's father sets out to administer vigilante justice on the Hatburn cousins (the sheriff doesn't have the means to deal with the outlaws himself), but has a heart attack. David is determined to go after the Hatburns in his father's place, but his mother talks him out of it, arguing that with his father dead and brother crippled, the household, including his brother's wife and infant son, depends on him. The family is then turned out of the farm and are forced to move into a small house in town. David asks for his brother's old job of driving the hack but is told he is too young. He does find work at the general store though. Later, when the hack's regular driver is fired for drunkenness, David finally has a chance to drive the hack. He loses the mailbag near the Hatburn farm, where it is found by Luke. David goes to the Hatburn farm to demand the mailbag. He is refused and gets into an argument with the cousins, during which he is shot in the arm. David then shoots Iscah and the younger son and later, after a prolonged fight with the older brother (meant to recall the story of David and Goliath), emerges victorious. Esther flees for help and makes it to the village, telling that David has been killed. As a crowd prepares to go look for David, he, although injured, arrives in the hack with the bag of mail. It is clear to all that David, no longer merely "tol'able," is a real man and a hero.
Released in December 1921, Tol'able David was both a commercial and critical success. Carl Sandburg, reviewing the picture for the Chicago Daily News, repeatedly referred to it as a masterpiece. In Life, Robert E. Sherwood wrote, "It is the first motion picture to achieve real greatness without placing any any reliance on spectacular effect."
Trade-related publications widely recommended it. In Photoplay it was called a masterpiece again and "one of the few film tragedies of uncompromising power". Variety said of Barthelmess' performance that it came "close to being the best effort he has ever made". The review in Motion Picture News gave the opinion that there would be "few who will not feel the power of it". The Exhibitors Herald found it "a superb piece of cinema craftsmanship" and "excellent throughout".
In a 1924 interview for Photoplay, Mary Pickford named it among her favorite films, saying, "When I first saw this picture I felt I was not looking at a photoplay but was really witnessing the tragedy of a family I had known all my life." It influenced Russian director V.I. Pudovkin who used it as an exemplar in his writing.
- The Kid Brother (1927), Harold Lloyd's highly regarded comedy, had a similar plot and featured Tol'able David actor Ralph Yearsley. The Kid Brother was a reworking of The White Sheep (1924), which also loosely adapted aspects of Tol'able David.
- A less successful 1930 sound remake with Richard Cromwell in the title role was directed by John G. Blystone for Columbia.
Some of the climactic scenes in the 1959 horror movie The Tingler take place in a specialty theater during a showing of Tol'able David.
- "Tol'able David". Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- Gottesman, Ronald; Geduld, Harry M. (1972). Guidebook to Film: An Eleven-in-one Reference. Ardent Media. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-03-085292-3.
- "Hooray for Hollywood". Library of Congress Information Bulletin 67 (1–2). January–February 2008. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- Sandburg, Carl (2000). Arnie Bernstein, ed. The Movies are: Carl Sandburg's Film Reviews and Essays, 1920–1928. Lake Claremont Press. pp. 101–103. ISBN 978-1-893121-05-8.
- Sherwood, Robert E. (February 2, 1922). "Tol'able David". The Silent Drama. Life 79 (2048): 22.
- "Tol'able David". The Shadow Stage. Photoplay XXI (3): 64. February 1922. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- Silverman, Sid (as "Skig.") (January 6, 1922). "Tol'able David". Pictures. Variety XLV (7): 42.
- "Tol'able David". Motion Picture News XXIV (25): 3100. December 10, 1921.
- "Tol'able David". Exhibitors Herald XIII (22): 49. November 26, 1921.
- Howe, Herbert (January 1924). "Mary Pickford's Favorite Stars and Films". Photoplay XXV (2): 29. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- Pudovkin, V. I. (2013) [1929; 1933]. Film Technique and Film Acting – The Cinema Writings of V.I. Pudovkin. Read Books Limited. ISBN 978-1-4465-4735-9.
- Ward, Richard Lewis (1995). A History of the Hal Roach Studios. SIU Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-8093-8806-6.
- MacCann, Richard Dyer (1996). Films of the 1920s. Scarecrow Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-8108-3256-5.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Tol'able David|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tol'able David.|
- Tol'able David at AllMovie
- Tol'able David at the Internet Movie Database
- Tol'able David is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Tol'able David at Virtual History