Harry Langdon’s comedy His First Flame (1927) was released on this date. The film was made for Mack Sennett in 1925, but Langdon left the studio so Sennett hung on to it for awhile, and finally released it two years later at the height of Langdon’s fame. Technically at just under an hour it is Langdon’s first feature, and would have seemed like his best movie ever had it been released in ’25. Released in ’27, after Tramp, Tramp, Tramp and The Strong Man it seemed like something of a throwback. In its proper perspective it’s a pretty great little comedy.
Harry plays a young college graduate who simply adores women. His uncle the fire chief (Vernon Dent) is a woman-hater. His uncle’s extreme attitude seems to be borne out when the girl Harry is mooning over turns out to be a heartless gold-digger (Harry has an inheritance). When the uncle lies and tells her Harry’s got no money, she loses interest. Fortunately, the gold-digger’s much nicer sister secretly loves Harry for himself. At any rate, wouldn’t it just be Harry’s luck (and ours) that Harry is in the fire station when a call comes in…an opportunity for gags, and then heroism. I don’t know what it is but there is something kind of iconic for me about Langdon in a fireman’s uniform. Other comedians, such as Chaplin, had played fireman before, but there is something about the child-like Harry that’s especially cartoonish. He’s like Mickey Mouse or something.
This was a fine comedy, made by Langdon’s usual stable of geniuses, Harry Edwards, Frank Capra, and Arthur Ripley. Released at the wrong time though it marked the beginning of the end of Langdon’s brief box office dominance.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy including Harry Langdon and His First Flame please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.