Archive for the Harold Lloyd Category

A Very Young Harold Lloyd in “Court House Crooks”

Posted in Century of Slapstick, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2015 by travsd
A pre-glasses Harold Lloyd hides in the closet

A pre-glasses Harold Lloyd hides in the closet

Today is the anniversary of the Keystone ensemble comedy Court House Crooks (1915), directed by and starring by Ford Sterling.

This little comedy has a number of interesting features, not the least of which is that it contains one of the very few screen appearances made by Harold Lloyd in a Keystone picture. He hasn’t yet established his glasses character; he comes across as a very nice, if undistinguished young man.

Here’s the plot: Minta Durfee plays a judge’s wife. The judge (Charles Arling) has forgotten her anniversary so she makes him go buy her a gift, so he goes and gets a jeweled necklace. Meantime she also has something going with D.A. Ford Sterling. She arranges to meet Ford at the soda fountain. The Judge accidentally drops the box with the necklace, which Ford just happens to find. He keeps the necklace and gives it to the Judge’s wife, throwing away the box, which a  young loafer (Harold Lloyd)  happens to find. Harold is pursued by police when he is discovered with the box. He runs home to his mother and little sister and hides in the closet.

The cops catch him, put him in jail. He escapes and climbs a ladder into what turns out to be the Judge’s house! He hides, once again, in a closet, but this tme it happens to be one in which Ford Sterling happens to be hiding. Ford tricks Harold into surrendering, claiming that he will get him off the hook. Then Ford slips out …does a tightrope walk on clotheslines! Coincidentally (there are quite a few coincidences in this movie) the house next door is where Lloyd’s mother and sister live. Ford promises to free the boy.

Climax: the big courtroom scene. (Um, as though they would allow a Judge to try a case in which he is also the victim). Ford renegs on his promise and vigorously argues the case to prosecute Harold. Harold’s little sister (she’s only about 7 or 8) gets an idea: she writes a message on a mirror then shines it into the court. Jury and Judge see the message. Ford hides under the Judge’s desk and Minta comes into the court wearing the necklace. Ford is bonked on the head and put in jail.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including films like Court House Crooks, don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

Just Nuts: Harold Lloyd’s Oldest Surviving Comedy

Posted in Century of Slapstick, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by travsd
Harold Lloyd - Rolin Film Company (1916)

Couldnt find a still of “Just Nuts” or even a pic of Lloyd as Willie Work. But this is a group shot of Hal Roach’s Rolin Company taken around the same time. Lloyd, Bebe Daniels and Snub Pollard are all in the pic — see if you can spot them!

A red letter day! Today marks the anniversary of the oldest surviving Harold Lloyd comedy Just Nuts. 

The Museum of Modern Art has one of the few surviving copies; I had it screened for me whilst I was researching Chain of Fools. (Thanks MOMA!)

Just Nuts featured Lloyd in his first comedy screen character, prior even to Lonesome Luke. His name here is Willie Work, and this character was devised so early it is previous even to Lloyd’s brief stint (and schooling) at KeystoneJust Nuts was the only one of the Willie Work comedies that Hal Roach was able to sell to distributors. Watching the surviving film, it is easy to see why the others didn’t sell. Just Nuts is amateurish enough — imagine what the other ones were like.

If you’ve seen any of the Lonesome Luke comedies, you know that Lloyd was consciously doing his best to imitate Chaplin in that character. Well, with Willie Work he did that EVEN MORE, and more overtly. The costume looks more like Chaplin’s, including an unruly mat of hair, oversized shoes, etc. He reflexively tips his hat, thumbs his nose at people, spits, and so forth.

The plot is fairly aimless. Willie sees a pretty girl, follows her, then gets run down by two cars. He sits next to a sleeping man on a park bench, and steals a cigar from him, lighting a match on his neck. Then he steals his newspaper, then steals his eyeglasses to read it with. On another bench, two mashers are bothering a girl. She dislikes one, is on a date with the other. The spurned one throws a brick. It hits the sleeping man, who wakes and hits Willy. Willy hits him back with a Chaplinesque spin and winds up in a garbage can. The spurned masher hooks up with another lady who seems most willing, takes a drink from a flask, then drops it on Willy’s head. Willy falls out of the trash can. The sleeping man sits on the bench with the first couple, then falls asleep again. Willy steals a cop’s truncheon, then hits the sleeping man, who wakes and hits the young man with the girl. Willie sits with the girl. A cop comes up and hits him with club, knocking him out. More fisticuffs and nonsense, then the setting switches to café. Willy comes in, steals a beer, then the waiters throw him out.  Willy sneaks back in and stabs the waiters with fork. There is a  general melee. Fade out.

Just Nuts didn’t set the world on fire, but it gave Lloyd and Roach just enough encouragement to stay in the film business. Later that year they would split for a while, Lloyd serving an apprenticeship at Keystone, Roach doing the same as a director at Essanay. When they came back together to make the Lonesome Luke comedies they had a much firmer grasp of how to make successful (and professional) movies.

For more on slapstick film history see 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. For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Harold Lloyd in “The Kid Brother”

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , on January 17, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of Harold Lloyd’s 1927 feature The Kid Brother.

In The Kid Brother, Lloyd stretched somewhat, venturing into what one thinks of as Keaton territory, a 19th century period piece. Lloyd had gotten the inspiration to do a film with this kind of rustic setting from the 1921 hit Tol’able David. The Kid Brother casts Harold as the youngest son in a very Bonanza-like family of manly men. The father, the town sheriff, is framed in the theft of town funds by some carnival con men, and it falls to Harold to find the true culprits, even as he is being bullied by his older, meaner brothers. To complicate matters, Lloyd is in love with a girl from the carnival (Jobyna Ralston), and he has been masquerading as the town sheriff, doing much damage thereby.

The picture is moodier and more beautiful to look at than most Lloyd pictures—looks more like Chaplin, Keaton or Langdon. The climax on a partially submerged riverboat also conjures a similar scene in Huckleberry Finn. But don’t let this talk of beauty fool ya. It’s full of hilarious gags, too.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss 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

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To find out more about  the history of show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold

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Harold Lloyd in “Peculiar Patients Pranks”

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on December 21, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the early Harold Lloyd comedy Peculiar Patients’ Pranks (1915), directed by Hal Roach. The second oldest surviving Lonesome Luke short, Peculiar Patients Pranks is a hospital comedy offering such crudities as a doctor wielding a wood saw, a man suffering from a Flintstonesque animated head lump, and the comic misuse of chloroform. It also features Snub Pollard and Bebe Daniels.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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

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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Important Lost Silent Comedies

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Comedy, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Hollywood (History), Larry Semon, Laurel and Hardy, Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film, W.C. Fields with tags , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2014 by travsd

A little survey I’ve been sitting on about important silent comedies that remain lost. Amazing strides have happened in the last couple of decades thanks to the proliferation of the internet…many (scores? hundreds!) of silent films and early talkies long thought lost have turned up in the last few years, a truly joyous development. But some really important films are still missing as of this writing, and may well never be recovered. Here’s a short, subjective list of stuff some comedy fans and scholars would give anything to see:

FEATURES

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Heart Trouble (1928), Harry Langdon

This film tops my list. We are in the midst of a major reassessment of Langdon, and I’m a huge advocate for this idiosyncratic and famously temperamental comedian. Heart Trouble was the third and last of his self-directed features, after ditching his dream team of Harry Edwards, Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra. His previous two features were critical and popular failures (though I happen to love them). Langdon was new to directing and learning the ropes in the most public way possible. And by all contemporary critical accounts, Heart Trouble was better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough of a rebound. First National dropped him, but more importantly, talkies had now become universal. So Langdon had to start everything from scratch again, making a series of talking shorts for Hal Roach, then Educational, then Columbia. I’m in the midst of wading through those now. Langdon eventually found his way in talkies but had to thrash around a bit first. But, having seen all of his silent films, I am dying to see the missing link, Heart Trouble, which by all counts could do still more to enhance his reputation as “the Fourth genius”

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Half of W.C. Fields’s Silent Features

While several of the silent features W.C. Fields made for Paramount in the 1920s survive,  five do not. The reason why is not hard to fathom — they did not do well. Tellingly, four of these films were among Fields’ last five of the silent era. At that point, he was in decline and these films were not much watched, and clearly no one cared to save them. The missing silent features are That Royle Girl (1925), The Potters (1927), Two Flaming Youths (1927), Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1928),  and Fools for Luck (1928). He played a smaller role in That Royle Girl, so that’s less of a loss, but one bemoans the loss of the other four, for The Potters was co-written by J.P. McEvoy, author of the Fields stage revue The Comic Supplement and it forms the basis of Fields’ many later domestic comedies. And the last three vehicles all co-star Chester Conklin, a historic teaming of which we have NO record to look at. Two Flaming Youths has a carnival setting that anticipates You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man and is chock full of cameos of top vaudevillians, including Weber and Fields, Clark and McCullough, The Duncan Sisters, Savoy and Brennan, Moran and Mack, Kolb and Dill, Jack Pearl, et al, AND it features some bona fide sideshow freaks, including Fat Lady Anna Magruder. Tillie’s Punctured Romance was a critically panned, much altered version  of the Mack Sennett film of 14 years earlier, transplanted to a circus, and including in addition to Fields and Conklin, Louise Fazenda, Mack Swain (who’d also been in the original), and Tom Kennedy. 

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Two by Larry Semon:

Semon famously melted down in features: he overspent and went bankrupt, no doubt contributing to the health problems which killed him in 1928. But like Langdon, he is presently undergoing a reappraisal, and I personally rank him high. Some of his shorts are incredibly well made and hilarious, and though his version of The Wizard of Oz (1925) is terrible I rather liked his feature The Perfect Clown (1925) and others have praised Spuds (1927). The record is just mixed enough! To properly gauge his talent it would be so very useful to be able to see his two missing features The Girl in the Limousine (1924), and Stop, Look and Listen (1926). Of added interest, the latter film was based on an Irving Berlin Broadway show.

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Fatty Arbuckle’s Post-Scandal Features

Arbuckle grows on me all the time. Others have been quicker to rank him near the top of the pantheon. I have been slower to see it, but now that I have seen almost all of his work (and some of his directing work), my respect has increased, and I too would have to put him near the top.  Complicating matters is the fact that his features are less personal — they are studio product in which he was just an actor. I have seen a couple that have survived, The Round-Up and Leap Year, both what they used to call “straight comedies” as opposed to slapstick. They are okay, but dull compared to the features of the Big Four. Seeing more of that work would help that assessment, and he certainly pumped out a downright sick number of features in that year before scandal ruined his career as a star. Among the lost features are The Fat Freight, Brewster’s Millions, The Dollar a Year Man and Traveling Salesman, all 1921. These were made prior to the scandal but many were never distributed once the scandal hit and no one bothered with them in the aftermath for obvious reasons. No one dreamt that decades later people would actually care about the films of this washed-up comedian.

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Mabel Normand’s Goldwyn films

As with her frequent co-star Arbuckle, Normand moved away from slapstick in her features and consequently they are a little duller to watch. Still her work was excellent and in recent years we have seen the rediscovery of the features she made with Mack Sennett (Mickey, Molly O, Suzanna, The Extra Girl). Today it’s possible to see many of her features, but we’re largely missing the numerous features she made for Sam Goldwyn during the years 1918-1922. Sis Hopkins (pictured above) is of special interest being as it was a famous stage vehicle associated with Rose Melville.

From "Wedding Bill$", lost Griffith feature from 1927

From “Wedding Bill$”, lost Griffith feature from 1927

Raymond Griffith features

Often called the Sixth Genius, Griffith too is enjoying a Renaissance thanks to surviving comedy features such as Hands Up and Paths to Paradise. But Griffith (much like Arbuckle and Normand) made a ton of features for Paramount. In those days the big studios seemed to pump them out the way Sennett, Roach et al did shorts. Griffith and Paramount parted ways acrimoniously, no doubt contributing to the fact that we have so little to look at today.

SHORTS

Charlie Chaplin, Her Friend the Bandit (1914)

This is the only missing Chaplin film. It’s easy to glean why there is such a high survival rate for Chaplin films; essentially they never went out of circulation. There has always been demand for practically ALL of them. There seems to be some debate and confusion about whether Her Friend the Bandit even actually existed. But there is some evidence that it did. More here. 

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Arbuckle and Keaton, A Country Hero (1917)

This, in turn is the only known missing Keaton film, though he is second billed behind Arbuckle. Learn more about it here.

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Laurel and Hardy,  Hats Off  (1926)

Oh this one is a major loss. By all accounts it’s the prototype for their popular Oscar winning classic The Music Box, with the boys moving a washing machine instead of a piano, and a large hat fight at the end.  So easy to see in the mind’s eye — but how I wish we could see the real thing.

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Harold Lloyd shorts:

We of course have dozens of comedy shorts by the prolific Harold Lloyd to see and enjoy today. Lloyd was also a pioneer in the field of film preservation, a fact which resulted in an ironic tragedy. In the 1930s he’d bought up negatives to all his films and stored them in the same vault. See where I’m going? In 1943 he had a major fire in which the only known copies of many of his earliest films were lost. The specific reason why this was especially unfortunate was that 53 of these lost shorts were ones in which he played his previous comedy character Lonesome Luke. Luckily a few Lonesome Luke movies survive (I’ve seen a couple), but how much better to have been able to evaluate those other 53. Also lost were 18 of his earliest “glasses character” comedies.  Learn more here: http://haroldlloyd.us/the-films/the-state-of-the-lloyd-films/

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W.C. Fields, His Lordship’s Dilemma (1915)

Fields’ second silent comedy short, after which he quit making films for an entire decade. It would be nice to see for ourselves what might have convinced him to stop for awhile. Learn more here. 

ENTIRE STUDIOS! 

In the mid-teens, many of Mack Sennett’s comedy stars bolted to other studios, notably L-KO, a kind of Sennett defection led by Henry “Pathe” Lerman, and Fox. Only 10% of L-KO’s output remains. Nearly all of Fox’s silent comedy library was destroyed in a 1937 fire that also destroyed nearly all of the silent comedy films of Educational Pictures, another important slapstick factory.  And Universal, which had its own major comedy shop, destroyed most of their films from the silent era in 1948 on purpose! The odds of recovering prints of any of that stuff are very small and it. is just. maddening.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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

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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Harold Lloyd in Dr. Jack

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Silent Film with tags , , on November 26, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Harold Lloyd film Dr. Jack (1922).

Dr. Jack is easily my least favorite (and the weakest) of Lloyd’s features. He plays a commonsense small-town doctor who exposes a quack’s efforts to mislead a beautiful young girl into believing she’s sick. It’s straight from the Douglas Fairbanks playbook (it’s very similar to his 1917 feature Down to Earth). The film has very little slapstick to it, has very little forward momentum, and the formula is all wrong for Lloyd. As always, individual gags are good. One of his movies has to be worst, and for my money, this one is it. Recommended only for completionists, and/or folks who have already seen Lloyd’s more famous features, as this would not be a fair or representative introduction to the comedian’s work.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Harold Lloyd in “Feet First”

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , on November 8, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Harold Lloyd talking feature Feet First (1930), co-directed by Lloyd and Clyde Bruckman.

Feet First was Lloyd’s first proper talkie; the earlier Welcome Danger had been originally shot as a silent and then jerry-rigged to include dialogue.  Lloyd plays a young shoe salesman whose love for a rich industrialist’s secretary inspires him to masquerade as a millionaire. (Coincidentally it turns out that same industrialist is the CEO of the shoe company Lloyd’s character works for.) At the climax Harold vows to get a crucial document off the ocean liner they’re on to a potential business partner on the mainland. He ends up taking an airplane ride inside a mailbag. Unfortunately, the bag gets tossed onto a scaffold that lifts him to the top of a tall building and a Safety Last type predicament. The sequence is funny, but somewhat marred by Harold’s screams and cries of help that make it a little too scary.  But that didn’t stop Feet First from being the most popular of Lloyd’s talkies. I think the movie is good as any of his silent features.

And now the famous climbing scene:

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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