Just Pals. 1920. USA. Directed by John Ford (as Jack Ford). With Buck Jones, Helen Ferguson, Georgie Stone. Silent, with piano accompaniment. 52 min.
John Ford’s first film at Fox was this delightful rural comedy, featuring cowboy star Buck Jones as a small town layabout who rescues an orphan boy (George Stone) thrown from a passing freight train and befriends him. Buck is secretly in love with the local schoolmistress (Helen Ferguson), who only has eyes for the junior bank clerk in his resplendent seersucker suit. Ford renders the languorous rhythms of small-town America with an affection that stops short of sentimentality—this is a world still within memory. Jones, a former cowboy and stuntman recruited by Fox as the studio’s second-string Tom Mix, reveals the modest, ingratiating presence that would sustain him through decades in B pictures at Columbia, Universal, and Monogram. 35mm print from MoMA’s archive