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"The Mad Whirl" hardly reached the dizzying heights of jazz mad revelry as depicted in some of the early titles. In the first half, the Herringtons have made their house open to the local flapper set, all in the name of being "companions" to their son Jack (Jack Mulhall) whose fast living is giving him a dependence on alcohol. William Seiter worked mainly for Universal and was able to present ordinary, contemporary life without distortion or giving his films a typical Hollywood look.
Into Jack's life comes childhood friend, Cathleen Gillis (May McAvoy), daughter of local druggist (George Fawcett) who has nothing but contempt for the Herrington family and their fast life style. In the double standards of small town life the Herringtons look down their nose at Gillis because he was once a publican but prohibition hasn't stopped the liquor flowing freely at their house. When Jack rescues Cathleen from a runaway buggy they have a heart to heart and she tries to convince him to do something positive with his life but, in a scene that rings true to life, as often as he promises, he falls off the waggon. The last part becomes very preachy as Jack begins his battle with the bottle in earnest and George Fawcett, in the film's best scene, has a showdown with the parents who he renounces for their loose living where "girls and boys are turned into idlers and lawbreakers" just because they want to keep pace with their boy instead of being real parents.
May McAvoy and Jack Mulhall were both thriving stars at the time but by the end of the 1920s they were almost through - Mulhall carried on in poverty row programmers but McAvoy had her last substantial film role in 1929 with "No Defense". A story had got abroad that she lisped and McAvoy spent many years refuting it, to no avail. It was odd because she made 6 talkies in 1929 and became known as "the Vitaphone Girl".
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