Pat Harrington (Marion Davies) is an awkward young woman who always feels like the odd one out. Her mother (Marie Dressler) clearly favors Pat’s older sister Grace (Jane Winton) and Pat’s father (Dell Henderson) doesn’t approve of the way Pat is treated, but his wife is too domineering to listen to anything he has to say. Grace always seems so elegant and sophisticated and has no problem attracting attention from men, making Pat feel like even more of an outcast in her own family. Grace has been dating Tony (Orville Caldwell) and while Tony adores her, Grace is hardly loyal. Pat is in love with Tony, but he’s too wrapped up in Grace to notice.
Pat wants nothing more in the world than to be noticed by Tony and get treated with more respect. When she manages to spend some time with Tony alone after a party, she laments that men never seem to notice her and he says men like a woman with personality So she decides to take his advice and gets some books on how to develop a personality, which involves going around saying odd platitudes in hopes of sounding smart and witty, but she really makes no sense. Her family is absolutely dumbstruck by Pat’s strange behavior and think she’s gone crazy. But when her father realizes what’s going on, he encourages her to keep up the act.
Of course, Pat tries to use her new “personality” to win over Tony and he likes Pat. After all, she shows more of a genuine interest in him than Grace or anyone else in the family. But when Grace sees that Pat has designs on Tony — and is actually winning him over — she makes a point to put a stop to it. So when Pat sees Grace leave with Tony, she goes to see Billy (Lawrence Gray), another man Grace has been seeing, so she can make it seem like she’s in trouble and Tony can save her from it. This time, she ends up pushing her entire family a little too far, but it all works out in the end.
The Patsy is, in my opinion, one of the all-time great silent comedies that doesn’t get the amount of credit it deserves. It’s a completely and totally delightful film; the sort of movie I can put on when I’ve had a bad day and it always cheers me up. It’s by far one of the best movies Marion Davies ever made and is a fine example of why she ought to be considered one of the best comedic actresses of the silent era. The scene where Marion impersonates other big silent film stars like Lillian Gish and Pola Negri is well worth the price of admission. Marion is, indeed, the star of the movie, but she has a lot of help from a wonderful supporting cast. They couldn’t have found a more perfect actress for Pat’s mother than Marie Dressler and Dell Henderson was spot-on as the put-upon father. I simply can’t think of a bad thing to say about this movie.