Today is the anniversary of the release date of Harold Lloyd’s first talking feature Welcome, Danger (1929), co-directed by Clyde Bruckman and Mal St. Clair.
Welcome Danger was originally made as a silent, then reshot to serve a market that had switched almost entirely over to talkies in just a few short months. The plot concerns Harold moving to San Francisco to step into the shoes of his late father, a legendary detective. After the usual ups and downs, he defeats a Chinatown gang led by the great Hollywood character actor Charles Middleton (best known as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials). Of the two versions, the silent one comes off better. The talkie is an interesting specimen, but you can’t just add speech to a silent movie and expect it to work. Since a chain of gags already moves the plot, the talking is unnecessary, even annoying. As in many talkies of this era, there are passages with no scripted dialogue but very repetitious yelling of a character’s name or a phrase. That must be a holdover from silents, when we wouldn’t have noticed what anyone was saying. It gets really annoying really fast. This amount of ad libbing turned into a sort of blind alley in the development of sound. In the early talkies, when the actors hold to the script, it’s better. Still, Welcome Danger did well at the box office because of the curiosity of audiences to hear Lloyd speak.
To learn more about comedy film history, including great Harold Lloyd movies like “Welcome Danger” please check out my 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