Released October 2, 1916, Nearly a Deserter is a one-reel Black Diamond Comedy filmed and produced by the United States Motion Picture Corporation (USMPC) in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The film was the first Black Diamond Comedy distributed by the Paramount Pictures Corporation, New York.
Advertisements for the film appeared in the September 23 and 30, 1916 issues of The Moving Picture World.
As of the writing of this article (October 21, 2012) no prints of this film are known to survive. If you have any information about the film, please contact us.
The USMPC received a copyright for this film (#9235) on October 3, 1916. In the copyright information, the USMPC included the following synopsis, which is here digitized by King’s College student Sarah Scinto:
“Nearly A Deserter”
A description of the motion picture entitled “Nearly A Deserter” is as follows:
This story opens with two tramps racing out of a tunnel just ahead of a train. They barely escape being run down and are naturally black and dirty after their trip through the tunnel. They go to a brook nearby to wash up after which one of them dries his face on a piece of paper which he finds lying nearby. He looks at the paper and discovers that it is a printed bill offering a reward of fifty dollars for … “Willie Smith” who is a deserter from the army. It happens that his partner bears a great resemblance to Willie Smith and he says “your’re a dead wringer for this deserter I’ll take you into camp collect the reward, help you to escape, and will divide the money”. He takes the supposed Willie into camp and he is accepted as the deserter. The reward money is paid over and his partner leaves camp. Willie is put through a series of “stunts”- digging trenches, drilling with the awkward squad, assisting the cook, etc. until he finally blunders up putting gun powder in the biscuits instead of baking powder. The biscuits are served to general nuisance who is in command and one of them explodes. Willie is ordered thrown in the guard house and is sentence to be shot at sunrise. “The daughter of the regiment” takes compassion on Willie and assists him to escape. She shows him the sunset gun and tells him to hide in there until dark and then he can escape. Shortly afterward the general and his squad come forth to fire the sunset gun and Willie is fired several miles through the air, landing in a field along side his partner who has previously given up in the attempt to rescue him. The general discovers that the prisoner has escaped and through his field glasses sees him land and sees the two cronies dividing up the reward money. He orders the squad to fire again and the shot just misses the two tramps. They race away down a railroad track where they appropriate a locomotive. The general sees this and fires again, the tramps see the shell coming through the air and desert the locomotive just before the shot hits. The engine is blown up in the air and flies to pieces. The tramps then sees a hand car and a train is shown coming down on the same track. Just as they are about to collide the hand car makes a wild leap into the air, over the engine and runs over the top of the freight train. The next shot hits the hand car squarely and they are blown up into the air landing in an adjacent field. They are next seen running on the top of a mountain and the next shot hits…The finish of the story shows them sailing away through the clouds with the hand car still working.
The story of “Nearly A Deserter” was planned and worked out by James O. Walsh, Joseph A. Richmond, James M. Harris, William Fable, H.G. Plimpton, and Rex A. Taylor all of the aforegoing are citizens of United States of America and in the employee of the United States Motion Picture Corporation.
(Note: ellipses indicate sections of unreadable film)