Phil for Short. 1919. USA. Directed by Oscar Apfel. Screenplay by Clara S. Baranger, Forrest Halsey. With Evelyn Greeley, Hugh Thompson, Jack Drumier, Ann Eggleston, John Ardizoni. Digitized in 2K from a 35mm nitrate print preserved at the Library of Congress. DCP courtesy Kino Lorber. Silent. 82 min.
After disguising herself as her nonexistent twin brother to escape an unwanted marriage, Evelyn Greeley’s feisty Damophilia (or “Phil,” for short)—a lover of Sappho and ancient Greek dance—meets a Greek professor (Hugh Thompson) who also happens to be a self-proclaimed woman hater. Back in a dress, she becomes his assistant and playfully throws his professional and personal life off balance. Cowritten by Clara S. Beranger, who is remembered today as a close collaborator and wife of William C. deMille, this delightful comedy anticipates many of the later romantic screwball comedies of the 1930s. Beranger began her career as a journalist in New York City before transitioning into scenario writing in the mid-1910s, eventually joining World Film Corporation in 1918 and then Famous Players-Lasky in 1921. After her retirement from the film industry in the 1930s, she taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California School of Cinema Arts and penned Writing for the Screen in 1950. Phil for Short, which shows some scratches and other signs of age, has garnered more visibility this year thanks to the 2022 Cinema’s First Nasty Women boxset, a partner project of WFPP.