Harold Lloyd’s hilarious 1924 classic Girl Shy has one of the best climaxes of any Hollywood movie. In the film, Harold plays the most bashful young man ever, who writes a how-to manual for prospective Casanovas using his own nonexistent “experience” as a guideline. It gets published –as humor – and Harold is humiliated. Meanwhile, he really loves a girl he has met, but they are divided by class. He is poor and she is rich. Thinking it is hopeless, he pretends to be the jerk he seems in his book, and dumps her. She is heartbroken and about to marry some other stuffed shirt. Then: the big scene. It seems to be adapted from Fairbanks’ 1916 The Matrimaniac, the entire plot of which is the hero’s Odyssey to stop his girl’s marriage to the wrong man. Lloyd’s version though is faster, more compressed, and contains funnier gags. Everything goes wrong for Harold as he speeds to the church to stop the wedding. He ends up taking every known form of transportation and something goes wrong with all of them. He steals about a dozen conveyances. Then he makes it to the altar in the nick of time and –as he always does—seizes the girl of his dreams as though he were a caveman. I would be beyond shocked to learn that Mike Nichols hadn’t studied the last act of Girl Shy in preparation for The Graduate.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including great Harold Lloyd pictures like “Girl Shy”, check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube