By David G. Firestone
Long before Disney took the concept of needless sequels to the level it is today, there were other examples. Sometimes these sequels were great, other times they serve no real purpose. This is especially true if the movie in question can be considered to have a “They lived happily ever after” ending. Today’s movie is one such example.
The Roaring Road ended in “and they lived happily ever after.” However, the writer of The Roaring Road, Byron Morgan decided to write The Bear Trap in 1920. This story would evolve into Excuse My Dust, a sequel to The Roaring Road in 1920. All the main cast members return for this sequel. As with the last movie, this is somewhat difficult to follow without sound.
The movie starts with a decent explanation of the events of The Roaring Road, then sets up the movie stating that ‘Toodles’ Walton has retired from racing, has Dorothy as his wife, and Toodles Jr. as a son, played by Wallace Reid Jr., It also explains that Toodles is now a high ranking member in Darco Automobiles. Wallace, Dorothy, and Toodles are a happy family, with Toodles Sr. giving Toodles Jr. his own play car. Dorothy chides Toodles Sr. for teaching Jr. how to speed, and Jr. almost rides into the street.
The scene then shifts to a top secret room in Darco, where J. D. “The Bear” Ward, and Tom Darby develop a brand new, more powerful stock motor for a car. Max Henderson, a salesman described as “A six-cylinder man with a one-cylinder conscience” is introduced. Darby and The Bear don’t trust Henderson, but Toodles likes him.
We are then introduced to The Fargot Bunch, representing Fargot, who is the chief rival to Darco. They have plans as well. Leading the bunch is President Mutcher, who has questionable ethics. It’s revealed that Henderson is in fact working for Fargot, and trying to steal the secret engine. The come to the conclusion that Toodles is testing the new engine, and decided to get him to race, and get a peek at the motor, not realizing he has left the speed game.
Ritz, Mutcher’s stooge, scouts Toodles’ route, and tries to get him to race, with his wife holding his infant son. The cops pull them over, and take him to the station. In court, Toodles waits for the judge, and his wife calls The Bear, asking for help. As The Bear arrives for court, he catches Ritz trying to spy on the engine, which isn’t on the car that Toodles was driving. Ritz dejectedly walks away.
Back in court, The Bear and the judge have a talk, and Toodles thinks he is getting off easy, but the judge suspends his license for six months. The Bear then proceeds to place signs in all Darco offices stating that any employee caught speeding will be promptly fired. Toodles argues with The Bear, but not only does he get nowhere, The Bear reveals that he is selling all three of their race cars. Dorothy talks Toodles down.
Fargot learns that Darco is selling their race cars. They set up a plan for a dummy company to buy their cars. This plan is successful, and within a week, Fargot has all of Darco’s race cars. That, coupled with his probation, takes a toll on him. The Bear becomes enraged when he sees a Darco add talking about their racing cars, which was pitched by the spy Henderson. Thus the trap is set.
The scene shifts to an automobile show, where all the manufacturers show off their latest models. At the show, a clipping is given to Toodles, claiming that Darco has no real racing prowess left. This sends The Bear into a rage, and a Darco/Fargot race from LA to San Francisco is set. This is not a race for just road cars, but full on race cars are in this race. Because of his probation, Toodles isn’t allowed to drive officially. However, through Henderson, his old race car is sold aback to him. In testing, he nearly hits his own son and nanny, which enrages his wife.
Toodles and his mechanic Griggs work on Toodles’ car. While the car is being worked on, Toodles goes home to make things right with Dorothy. He runs into his eternally cigar smoking father in law, who give him a note. Dorothy won’t see Toodles until he gives up speeding forever. The Bear sides with his daughter. Griggs reluctantly agrees to race, and Henderson tries to find out more about the Darco engine.
Henderson mentions to Toodles that he thinks the new engine is in the car Toodles is going to drive, and calls Fargot. Toodles, realizing what is going on, tells Henderson that the new engine is, in fact, in Toodles’ car, and alerts The Bear. When the night of the race comes, all are ready, but Toodles gets a telegram asking him to come to San Francisco, because his baby is sick. Toodles decided to replace Griggs in the race. Mutcher tells his driver to wreck Toodles, and The Bear replaces his driver in his car to protect his son-in-law. The race then begins.
The night racing shots are really well done, as it’s actually shot at night. Daytime comes, and Toodles is in the lead. The Bear has to pull over for a pit stop, and realizes that Toodles is still in the lead. The course is changed by a bridge out sign. In trying to catch up with Toodles, The Bear drives over a railroad bridge, narrowly missing a train. Ritz catches up to Toodles, and they wreck. Ritz inspects the car, and realizes they have been duped. A fight ensues, and Fargot’s second driver vows to chase down The Bear. He finds out that Fargot bought all of Darco’s racing cars.
The Bear is now unknowingly in the lead. Thinking he is in third, he actually wins the race. It’s announced that Toodles and Ritz were in a wreck, and as The Bear tries to figure out what happens, Toodles and Oldham, Fargot’s driver, come in second. Toodles reveals that the car is a Darco car in disguise, and he leaves to check on his child, which turns out to be a false alarm. Relieved, The Bear gives the $10,000($134,833.68 in 2020), Dorothy forgives Toodles, and the movie ends.
The movie was a little too complex, given the technical restrictions. Also, without sound, it’s really hard to tell who is who sometimes. This could have been an original movie, but it’s a sequel for no real reason. Still, it is well shot, the racing is good, and there was a lot of effort put into it. So I’ll give it a C.
Next Week, a silent movie from 1924 featuring another silent film comedy legend.