On the Level (1917 film)

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On the Level
On the Level poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Melford
Produced by Jesse L. Lasky
Screenplay by Marion Fairfax
Charles Kenyon
Starring Fannie Ward
Jack Dean
Harrison Ford
Lottie Pickford
James Cruze
Jim Mason
Cinematography Percy Hilburn (French)
Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • September 10, 1917 (1917-09-10)
Running time
50 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent (English intertitles)

On the Level is a lost[1] 1917 American silent Western film directed by George Melford and written by Marion Fairfax and Charles Kenyon. The film stars Fannie Ward, Jack Dean, Harrison Ford, Lottie Pickford, James Cruze, and Jim Mason. The film was released on September 10, 1917, by Paramount Pictures.[2][3]


As described in a film magazine,[4] Merlin (Ward), the only daughter of a sheep rancher, is kidnapped by Sontag (Dean), who shoots her father and drives off the sheep. She is compelled to dance nightly in Sontag's saloon where she is known as Mexicali Mae. There she meets Joe Blanchard (Ford), a derelict from the east who plays the piano in order to secure enough dope to satisfy his craving. Sontag, fearing that one of his confederates has double crossed him and told about his opium smuggling operations, kills the man and places the blame on Joe. Merlin helps Joe escape, and they take up a ranch where Joe finally overcomes his desire for drugs. Joe's mother (Chapman) and fiancee (Pickford) pay a visit and Mrs. Chapman tries to buy off Merlin and have Joe return east. Merlin returns to Sontag's dance hall, and Joe follows, convinced that she no longer loves him. Merlin returns to the ranch and is about to end her own life when Joe and Sontag arrive. In the tussle that follows, Sontag is killed and Joe realizes that Merlin really loves him.



Like many American films of the time, On the Level was subject to cuts by city and state film censorship boards. The Chicago Board of Censors required a cut of the scene of a roulette wheel, man shooting girl's father, the intertitle "A little this side of hell", all tough dance scenes, tough dancing, two views of roulette wheel, flash first dead body scene and cut two others, flash scene of dragging body across floor, body in wheel barrow, three intertitles "I'm going to town, I'd rather die with morphine than without it", "You didn't say anything to your mother about me?", and "I understand", two tough dancing scenes, all scenes of selling liquor to sailor, two scenes of drinking at table in background, and girl on table with arms above man's neck.[5]


  1. ^ The Library of Congress American Silent Feature Film Survival Catalog:..On the Level
  2. ^ "On the Level". AFI. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "On the Level (1917) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Reviews: On the Level". Exhibitors Herald. New York: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (14): 27. September 29, 1917. 
  5. ^ "Official Cut-Outs by the Chicago Board of Censors". Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (17): 33. 20 October 1917. 

External links

  • On the Level on IMDb
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