HER HONOR THE MAYOR (1920) tells the story of young lady who is elected mayor over her misogynist opponent, the town’s District Attorney. The movie was based on a successful 1918 play by Arline Van Ness Hines, who imagined a world in which women could vote well before this right was secured by Congress with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Press surrounding the release reinforced the picture’s significance in the wake of cultural and political change, with the Motion Picture News calling it: “Particularly timely with the political activity sweeping the country” and noting: “It is expected that it will make a strong appeal to every voter, because of the fact that women today are regarded as a deciding factor in political life… HER HONOR THE MAYOR shows just what women of this country intend to do.”
At that time, movie audiences were predominantly female and filmmakers were eager to finance themed pictures that would continue to draw women to the box-office. However, critics were generally male, and many complained that HER HONOR THE MAYOR showcased “types” – including “a suffragette who belongs in burlesque” – that were entertaining but inappropriate to a film “that depicts real life.” Critics wrote that the movie “stretches plausibility” when its female protagonist is given a chance to be Mayor, but favored its ending, in which “she declines… in favor of the man she is to marry.”
HER HONOR THE MAYOR was also promoted as actress Eileen Percy’s breakthrough to stardom, although she appeared in nearly 20 features beforehand. After immigrating to the US from Ireland, Percy worked an artists’ model and a Ziegfeld Follies dancer while performing in over 60 feature films. Retiring from the screen, Percy became a journalist and lived into her 70s. The release of HER HONOR THE MAYOR was buoyed by hype about the young actress and her successful rise to the ranks of her male actor colleagues, as did her character in the film, illustrated in such quotes as: “The main point to be emphasized by Eileen Percy as star… is that there is no sex in brains.”