Lightnin’. 1925. USA. Directed by John Ford. With Jay Hunt, Wallace MacDonald. 104 min.
Frank Bacon’s stage comedy Lightnin’ broke Broadway records when it premiered in 1918, and although it is completely forgotten today, the film adaptation was clearly a plum assignment for young director John Ford, fresh off the success of The Iron Horse. Jay Hunt stars as the title character (“We call him Lightnin’ because he ain’t”), a silver-haired spinner of tall tales who is largely content to sit back and watch his wife (the reliable Edythe Chapman, herself a Broadway star of the early 20th century) run their hotel, which straddles the border between California and Nevada. The role practically calls out for future Ford collaborator Will Rogers, and indeed Rogers did appear in a 1930 remake directed by Henry King. 35mm print from MoMA’s archive