Archive for the Harold Lloyd Category

Tonight on TCM: Silent Comedies with Dogs

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2016 by travsd

Today Turner Classic Movies is showing canine related films most of the day. As a digestif, they have also devoted Silent Sundays to the same theme. The fun starts at midnight.

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Love My Dog (1927)

In this silent Our Gang short, Farina and Joe Cobb’s dog Oleander (Pete the Pup) is taken to the pound and the kids have to raise the money to spring him! Tiny Sandford plays a lawyer.

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Number, Please? (1920)

While the climax to this Harold Lloyd short is one of the film’s best parts, the set-up is convoluted. Harold and a rival (Roy Brooks) vie for the attentions of a girl (Mildred Davis) at an amusement park. When her dog gets lost, she wants to go up in a hot air balloon operated by her uncle. The balloon will only hold two. The girl announces she will go up with whichever beau gets her mother’s permission first. The rival heads for the mother’s house in a car. Harold runs to a telephone so he can call the mother for permission. This would seem easy…but it’s a public phone in a hotel. The hilarious part is the succession of obstacles which prevent him from doing this simple thing. Then he winds up with a lost purse, which he finally gives to a goat to eat so he won’t be arrested for stealing. But it turns out to have been the girl’s purse, complete with the balloon tickets….

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Fatty’s Faithful Fido (1915)

For a time, Fatty Arbuckle was sharing his billing with a pooch named Luke. In this little short Luke has Fatty’s back in a rivalry with spiffy dude Al St. John over the the attention of Minta Durfee. After Fatty and Luke give Al a beat-down in the streets (and on the roofs) of Chinatown, Al literally marks Fatty for revenge, drawing an “x” on his back, the better for two hired thugs to identify him at the dance that night so they can give him a drubbing. Al’s plan gets thwarted though. And how’s it end? Well, what’s the default ending in half the Keystone comedies? That’s right — everyone falls into a tub of water.

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Fatty’s Plucky Pup (1915)

As he often does, in this film Roscoe plays a good-for-nothing layabout who lives with his mother (Phyllis Allen). He smokes in bed and starts a fire. Then he gives a dog a bath in a washtub, ruining the laundry. He is also fond of flirting with Lizzie the girl next door (Josephine Stevens). Later he brings Lizzie to an amusement part, where she will be kidnapped by a gang of shell game operators led by Edgar Kennedy. Luke the Dog alerts Fatty to the situation and the two of them (joined by the Keystone Kops) come to her rescue. The film contains a memorable shot of Mack Sennett’s famous treadmill-scrolling backdrop combo that gave a very cartoonish impression of the subject running (or riding a bike as the case may be) with the background going by behind them.

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Dog Daze (1925)

In this earlier Our Gang short, the kids all have pooches that perform specialty tricks. When they manage to stop rich girl Mary’s runaway pony, she invites them to her ritzy party, where the dogs reveal that they are not all angels.

 

Tonight on TCM: More Silent Slapstick Classics

Posted in Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Silent Film with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by travsd

Every Tuesday and Wednesday in September, Turner Classic Movies will be showing some of the finest silent comedy and slapstick classics (and documentaries thereon). Here’s what’s on the menu tonight:

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8:00pm (EST): The Birth of the Tramp (2014)

A documentary on the evolution of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, released on the 100th anniversary of his debut.

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9:15pm (EST): A Dog’s Life (1918)

A Dog’s Life is a longer, more ambitious film than any he had made previously, in some ways a sort of dry run for his later The Kid. For my money, the six scenes of A Dog’s Life are as funny and clever as any of his earlier shorts stacked together, with the additional bump of an emotional journey.

Chaplin plays his Little Tramp in the film. His co-stars are a pooch named Scraps, and Edna Purviance as a forlorn dance hall girl. All three of them are living “a dog’s life” in that they each are getting the short end of the stick. They meet, pass through several trials together, and in the end find happiness by exchanging their solitude for cooperative domesticity.

But along the way, we get to experience several of Chaplin’s most hilarious routines ever. And they’re all physical bits. In the first, after stealing a hot dog the tramp evades a policeman, over, under and around the wooden fence where he was sleeping. In the second, he applies for a job, but each time he advances toward the clerk’s window, someone else steps up to it just a split second before. In a later scene, Charlie keeps stealing muffins from a food vendor played by his brother Sydney, each time snatching one just as Syd’s back is turned. Try as he may Syd can’t catch him at it. In the end, Charlie has swallowed the whole plate of treats. And then there’s a funny bit with Charlie walking across a dance floor with a dog’s tail sticking out of his pants, and the other one (much imitated) in which Charlie supplies the gesturing hands of the man he has just knocked out so it will seem to the guy’s partner that he is still awake. In the coda, one of Chaplin’s occasional happy endings, man, woman, dog (and puppies) all one one big, happy family.

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10:00pm (EST): The Circus (1928)

Despite being an estimable hit in its day (the 7th most successful film financially of the silent era), today The Circus is the least well known of Chaplin’s silent comedy features. Why might that be? Possibly because it is more “thinky” than “feely”.  The film (which may have been inspired by Max Linder’s 1925 swan song The King of the Circus) begins with the Tramp fleeing a cop on a circus lot after being framed for a theft. His flight accidentally takes him into the middle of the circus ring where the audience, thinking he’s part of the show, greets him with gales of laughter and storms of applause. He is hired as a clown and turns out to be terrible at it. Meanwhile he falls in love with an equestrienne (Merna KennedyLita Grey’s best friend) who makes the mistake of being nice to him. In due course she falls in love with Rex, a tightrope walker (Harry Crocker), a plot point that is not only reminiscent of The Tramp  but anticipates Todd Browning’s Freaks (1932). In the end, the circus blows town, but the Tramp elects to string along alone. The image of him sitting on a log as the show (and his girl) leave without him is at once striking, moving and, well, kitschy, in a black velvet painting kind of way.

So, this can work on a couple of levels. At its most accessible, it’s set in a circus, and children love the circus. It’s possible to enjoy this film without having a contemplative brain in your head. After all, in one scene Charlie is walking a tightrope with his pants down, with monkeys crawling all over him (see above. It’s one of the highlights of the film). At another remove, however, The Circus is terribly self-conscious. This is a movie about a lonely clown who is having trouble being funny. That’s a formula that may be thought provoking but is probably intrinsically unworkable, despite having been tried many times. Others who’ve given the “accidental comedian” motif a go with varying success included Mabel Normand (The Extra Girl, 1923), Harold Lloyd (Movie Crazy, 1932), Red Skelton (Merton of the Movies, 1947), and Jerry Lewis (The Patsy, 1964). As a comedy premise the deck is stacked against you. The idea of an unintentionally funny comedian is too overwrought, too convoluted to be completely funny. The moments in the film that work best are the ones that are at a remove from that idea, such as when the Tramp poses as part of an animatronic Noah’s Ark display on the midway in order to evade the cop.

And, given that Chaplin is the clown in question in The Circus, what’s he really about here? Is he frustrated with the fact that the process of creating funny comedy (or any effective art) is not conscious, that it is (as we have pointed out a few times), completely instinctive? It can’t just be summoned at will. And Chaplin is famous for having made entire crews and casts wait around for hours, days and even weeks as he tried to do just that.

Or does Chaplin want to tell us that, like the Tramp, he is actually really a serious person (the kind of person whose voice is more like A Woman of Paris) and that he’s just been sort of railroaded into being a comedian? Another intriguing element in the film is the group of hack professional clowns who work at the circus and whom the audience hates. If the Tramp is Chaplin, who are they supposed to represent? The Keystone comedians? It certainly seems germane to his actual attitude towards them during the early part of 1914. It’s as though he were saying, “It’s not MY fault the world thinks I’m better than those people. Don’t blame me. I was born this way!”

Then there is the metaphor of getting the Tramp left behind by that circus. On the one hand he seems to be saying “I can take or leave this comedy thing.” But, on the other hand, perhaps he is expressing the fear that history will pass him by. The Circus was released a few scant months after The Jazz Singer. Was he beginning to have doubts that he could keep up with passing trends?

The self-doubt extends into the romantic realm in this picture, as well, a continuation of a theme he introduces in The Gold Rush. When Edna Purviance had been his leading lady, sometimes the Little Fellow would get the girl, sometimes he wouldn’t. Most of his films of the late silent era follow the model set by The Tramp and The Vagabond, generating pathos out of how the Tramp could never get the girl. (In The Gold Rush he had to buy the girl.). The Circus continued that theme.

Production on The Circus was apparently jinxed. Set-backs during filming included a scratched negative, a fire which set the production back for weeks, and personal woes for Chaplin including the death of his mother, his divorce from Lita Grey, and hassles with the I.R.S. In light of all that, we may fortunate that this film emerged as a comedy at all!

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11:30pm (EST): One Week (1920)

This film (the first of Buster Keaton‘s solo shorts to get a public release) was based on Home Made, an actual promotional film for do-it-yourself house construction released by the Ford Motor Company. In Buster’s version, just before his character starts to build his pre-fab dream house for himself and his bride (Sybil Seeley), his rival sabotages the effort by switching the numbers on the constituent pieces. The result is a make-work monstrosity out of a cubist nightmare: doors, walls, roofs, and windows all mismatched and not a single right angle in the construction. Later, when a storm strikes, the whole dealybob spins around and around on its foundation like a crank-fueled carousel. (Twisters are a frequent bête noir in Keaton’s Kansas-bred consciousness.)

When Buster learns that he has built his house on the wrong lot, he has to tow it to the correct spot. Unfortunately on the way, his car stalls on some railroad tracks. Seeing an onrushing train, we brace for disaster, then breathe a sigh of relief when it turns out that the locomotive is on an adjoining track. It passes, leaving the couple unharmed. A beat—and then the money shot: a train heading in the other direction comes from out of nowhere and smashes the house to splinters.

What sets Keaton apart is his famously tight story telling and the attention to character. Despite all the craziness, he never lets us forget this is about a couple of newlyweds working toward a very specific goal. We’re rooting for them to finish this house so they can begin their life together, even as comical events keep intruding to impede them.

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12:00am (EST): Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Steamboat Bill Jr. was Buster Keaton’s final independent film, and one of his best. The story: dandified college boy Buster tries to prove himself to his riverboat captain dad, and win the heart of the daughter of his dad’s rival. The Mississippi setting unavoidably evokes Mark Twain.  The climax contains Buster’s most famous film sequence…the brilliantly staged hurricane, culminating in his most well known single shot, with the building facade falling down around him, while the real life Buster stands there frozen praying to God they measured the window right. A movie as beautiful as it is funny.

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1:15am (EST): Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy (1962)

Inspired by the success of Robert Youngson’s The Golden Age of Comedy (1957), Harold Lloyd made this compilation film containing clips of his own “greatest hits”. For many of us born far too late to have experienced his films in their own day, this film was our first introduction to the work of silent comedy’s “Third Genius”.

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3:00am (EST) Number Please (1920)

While the climax to this short is one of the film’s best parts, the set-up is convoluted. Harold and a rival (Roy Brooks) vie for the attentions of a girl (Mildred Davis) at an amusement park. When her dog gets lost, she wants to go up in a hot air balloon operated by her uncle. The balloon will only hold two. The girl announces she will go up with whichever beau gets her mother’s permission first. The rival heads for the mother’s house in a car. Harold runs to a telephone so he can call the mother for permission. This would seem easy…but it’s a public phone in a hotel. The hilarious part is the succession of obstacles which prevent him from doing this simple thing. Then he winds up with a lost purse, which he finally gives to a goat to eat so he won’t be arrested for stealing. But it turns out to have been the girl’s purse, complete with the balloon tickets….

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3:30am (EST) Speedy (1928)

Counterintuitively, given that the American film industry was largely based in New York City during its earliest years (roughly 1893-1913), by the twenties most of the business was where it is now, in Hollywood. Location shooting in New York City for major feature films had become something of a novelty. Harold Lloyd’s Speedy redresses that lapse; it’s virtually a love poem to New York. Harold plays a soda jerk and rabid Yankees fan who wants to help save his girlfriend’s dad’s endangered business: the last horse drawn trolley line in New York. Two special highlights: a cameo by the actual Babe Ruth (Harold has to rush him to a game); and an actual vehicular accident, which the producers opted to keep in the film because it was so spectacular. And let’s not forget the cool scenes at Coney Island and Times Square! Harold plays a slightly different character in this film: cocky, pushy, fun-loving and a little irresponsible. Just like New York.

Speedy was Lloyd’s last released silent film. His next film Welcome Danger was originally prepared as a silent, but adapted for sound.

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5:05am (EST) Anna Case in La Fiesta (1926)

This couldn’t be farther from a silent slapstick comedy. I can only think they include this short and Roseland (below) as illustrations of what the late silents were up against. This is an early Vitaphone talkie starring opera singer Anna Case, backed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

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5:15am (EST): Charley My Boy (1926)

An early Leo McCarey effort. The great Charley Chase gets mistaken for a suitor for the affections for heiress Kathryn Grant (he’s just there for a job). The last act has him roaming around the boss’s house, trying to hide booze from prohibition cops.

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4:57am (EST) Roseland (1930)

Ruth Etting et al in a Vitaphone short set in the famed Jazz Age nightclub.

And stay tuned — they’ll be showing more classic comedies later in the day — more on that to come!

For more on silent comedy and slapstick 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

Tomorrow on TCM: A Harold Lloyd Orgy

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2016 by travsd

Tomorrow is the great silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd’s birthday and Turner Classic Movies will be observing it in fine form with this excellent cross section of his career, including two shorts, several silent features, some of his best talkies, and a late compendium that helped launch the silent comedy revival.

If my blog numbers are any measure, Lloyd is not nearly as well known today as his contemporaries Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. I hope this well be rectified in years to come. The truth is that in many ways Lloyd’s movies are more accessible and “contemporary” than those of his peers, and frequently more laugh-out-loud funny. He’s not as “intellectual”or “artistic” as the other two, but he is a first rate movie star in every sense of the word, and essentially ruled silent comedy throughout the 1920s, a decade when Chaplin’s films, though they were among the greatest hits of all time, where few in number; and Keaton, though he released the greatest work of his career, lagged quite far behind the other two at the box office, The films are being screen during the day tomorrow. Trust me: set your DVR and check them out. Here’s the line-up:

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6:15 am (EST): From Hand to Mouth (1919)

This is an interesting one to begin with, for it is less characteristic of classic Lloyd. Much as Chaplin is sort of “doing Lloyd” in A Day’s Pleasure , released a few days before, in From Hand to Mouth seems to be “doing Chaplin”. Of course with his earlier characters Willie Work and Lonesome Luke, Lloyd had literally been imitating Chaplin. Here, he experiments with a different sort of situation for his more famous character. Rather than the “go-getter” scenarios we associate with the character, he presents us with a situation more Chaplinesque. The young man is down and out, running from the cops, stealing food, etc. Meanwhile, an unscrupulous lawyer (Snub Pollard) tries to swindle a young heriess (Bebe Daniels) out of her inheritance, then gets a gang to kidnap her. Earlier, she had helped Harold out of a jam by paying for some food he stole. Now he has the chance to repay her by summoning the police to rescue her, which he does by provoking large numbers of them to chase him, a gag he would use many times again.

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6:45 am (EST): Never Weaken (1921)

One of the best of Lloyd’s so-called “thrill comedies”, paving the way for his most famous in that line Safety Last. Like many of the best short comedies, this one is in three sections. In the first part, the plucky Harold devises ingenious ways to drum up business for his sweetie’s (Mildred Davis) boss, an osteopath. In the second he thinks his girlfriend is going to marry some other guy and he unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide. In the last part, poor unsuspecting Harold is in his office minding his own business when a crane at the construction site across the street swings a girder in the window and picks up the chair in which he’s sitting. There follows an odyssey of nightmare proportions as Harold tries to make his way to earth from the upper levels of an unfinished building with no floors, stairs or elevator.

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7:15 am (EST): Safety Last(1923)

Safety Last is the best known of Lloyd’s features, by virtue of it containing the iconic image of him hanging from the clock at the top of an office building. It is the best known of Lloyd’s “thrill pictures” — comedies in which, by virtue of a crazy set of circumstances, Lloyd finds himself on the outside of the upper floors of a skyscraper, unable to get down.Safety Last casts Lloyd as a department store clerk who wants to make good with his boss by cooking up a publicity stunt. He hires a Human Fly (professional stunt climber) to climb all the way to the top of their seventeen story building from the outside. Unfortunately, the guy he hired runs into some trouble with the police, and Harold, who’s never done this before, and certainly isn’t properly dressed or equipped, has to do the climbing himself. The hair-raising climax comprises at least a third of the picture. Indeed it is its whole point. That image of Lloyd hanging from the clock ranks with Chaplin getting caught in the gears and cogs of Modern Times as an eloquent symbol of the modern predicament. A man hanging by his maimed hand from a business tower, at the mercy of a contraption that regulates time. Unlike Chaplin, however, Lloyd doesn’t intend it that way. If a man must enslave himself to win the things society tells him he ought to have, Lloyd tells us, so be it! “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” Nevertheless, you can’t help but cheer for him on that building. If most of Lloyd’s goals are illusions, the objective of escaping a horrible death seems very reasonable.

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8:30 am (EST): Girl Shy (1924)

In my opinion, 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.

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10:00 am (EST): The Freshman (1925)

The Freshman is up there with Safety Last as being one of Lloyd’s most lasting, definitive statements. The plot concerns Harold’s first year at college and his attempts to make good on the football team. Personally, it’s hard for me not to find his primary goal—belonging, conformity—somewhat unworthy. But it matters so much to Harold, and he is such a schlub, that you can’t help having sympathy. Lloyd even attempts (for the one and only time) moments of Chaplinesque pathos in this movie. Harold’s girl learns the students have been making fun of him and she tells him so. Harold puts on a brave face at first and then cries, and we can’t help feeling for him.  “Make them like you for what you really are,” she tells him. This message would have redeemed the film morally in my eyes if it had been carried through the picture, but then it gets abandoned. Because what ends up happening is Harold redeems himself by winning the big football game. Tenaciousness wins the day. But the message remains one of social conformity. But yet again — that may be why, it was and is one of Lloyd’s most successful pictures with the public. It’s also, not incidentally, a really good movie.

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11:30 am (EST): Speedy (1928)

Counterintuitively, given that the American film industry was largely based in New York City during its earliest years (roughly 1893-1913), by the twenties most of the business was where it is now, in Hollywood. Location shooting in New York City for major feature films had become something of a novelty. Speedy redresses that lapse; it’s virtually a love poem to New York. Harold plays a soda jerk and rabid Yankees fan who wants to help save his girlfriend’s dad’s endangered business: the last horse drawn trolley line in New York. Two special highlights: a cameo by the actual Babe Ruth (Harold has to rush him to a game); and an actual vehicular accident, which the producers opted to keep in the film because it was so spectacular. And let’s not forget the cool scenes at Coney Island and Times Square! Harold plays a slightly different character in this film: cocky, pushy, fun-loving and a little irresponsible. Just like New York. Speedy was Lloyd’s last released silent film. His next film Welcome Danger was originally prepared as a silent, but adapted for sound.

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1:00pm (EST) : 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.

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3:00 pm (EST): The Milky Way (1936)

The Milky Way was Lloyd’s last independent feature, and a very respectable one (i.e., funny!) at that. He plays a bungling milk man who is misunderstood by the press to have KO’d the world champion middleweight. What he is good at, however, is ducking, and that’s enough to secure him victories, and get the girl. Interestingly, this comedy finally allows Lloyd his take on that old slapstick staple, the comedy boxing match, which had already been nailed by Arbuckle (The Knockout, 1914), Chaplin (The Champion1915, and City Lights 1931), and Keaton (Battling Butler1926). Directed by the great Leo McCarey, this underrated classic features Adolph Menjou, Lionel Stander, Charles Lane et al, and featuring the first onscreen appearance of Anthony Quinn. It was later remade starring Danny Kaye as The Kid from Brooklyn (1946).

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4:30 pm (EST): The Sin of Harold Diddlebock

This is Lloyd’s last feature, made in 1947 and later retitled Mad Wednesday and re-released in 1950.

For this film producer-director-screenwriter Preston Sturges persuaded Lloyd to come out of retirement nine years after completing his last film, to recreate his role from his 1925 hit comedy The Freshman. The Freshman had ended with Harold’s character winning the big college football game, plus the girl. Presumably he has a bright future ahead of him. Sturges’s surprising conceit is that, twenty years later, Harold is not the go-getter we all projected he’d be, but an obscure clerk in a go-nowhere career. As the film opens, he is fired from even that dead-end job for his lack of drive and ambition. Despondent, he steps into a dive, where bartender Edgar Kennedy gives him his first drink. The resulting drunk sends Harold out on a spree the likes of which will be the making of him. While drunk, he uses his life savings to buy a circus. When he learns that the big top is struggling he causes citywide commotion by bringing a lion with to meet with bankers. The climax on the upper story ledge of a skyscraper is a tribute to Lloyd’s many “thrill comedies” featuring similar scenes, notably Safety Last. 

Lloyd is surprisingly terrific in the film for someone who hadn’t been before the cameras in almost a decade. In some early flashback scenes he convincingly plays himself at age 20, though he himself is 50 years old.  The film is also a Who’s Who of great character comedians of the era including Rudy ValleeFrankling Pangborn, Lionel Stander, Margaret Hamilton, Jack NortonJulius Tannen, Jimmy Conlin, etc.

Unfortunately, producer Howard Hughes pulled it from circulation shortly after its release, shot new scenes and re-cut it, re-releasing it in 1950 under the title Mad Wednesday. It didn’t do well in either released version. The version I watched surely must have been after Hughes’s tampering, for it seemed somewhat choppy, lacking the perfect shape of Sturges’s earlier comedies from the 40, more resembling the odd assembly Hughes’s had given his own movies like The Outlaw. Even with this mutilation and its checkered history, I think the movie deserves enhanced status as a classic, and is an extremely fitting final film statement for Lloyd, so everyone should see it.

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6:15 pm (EST): Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy (1962)

This compendium of old Harold Lloyd clips is vastly more important than you might think it is. For those of us over a certain age (say, 40), it was almost invariably our initial introduction to the classic work of Harold Lloyd. In the ’60s and 70s, when home video had not come out yet, and through ensuing years, when most of Lloyd’s work was not yet available on video, the most likely way to discover Lloyd was this grab bag retrospective Lloyd assembled of his own work, which was periodically screened on television. With a couple of exceptions among his early Keystones, I did not see Lloyd’s films themselves until the 1990s, when I moved to New York and caught festivals of them at the Film Forum. Nowadays, the volume of them that are available for home viewing is nothing less than staggering. Quite a reversal of affairs. At any rate, if you are still a Harold Lloyd virgin, as many people still are apparently, I would STILL recommend Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy as an excellent introduction to his films. Watch this one first, then go back and watch the others.

 

Sunday at Film Forum: Chaplin, Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy!

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Laurel and Hardy, Movies, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2016 by travsd

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This Sunday (April 3, 2016) at 11am, New York’s Film Forum will present an excellent triple bill of classic silent comedy shorts. On the menu are the following films (click on the title for my full article on the film):

Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant (1917)

Harold Lloyd in Get Out and Get Under (1920)

Laurel and Hardy in Two Tars (1927)

Plus a Koko the Clown short. For information and tickets, go to: http://filmforum.org/

Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman” at Film Forum This Sunday

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on December 4, 2015 by travsd

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Sunday, December 6 at 11am at New York’s Film Forum: Harold Lloyd’s classic feature length silent comedy The Freshman (1925).

The Freshman is up there with Safety Last as being one of Lloyd’s most lasting, definitive statements. The plot concerns Harold’s first year at college and his attempts to make good on the football team. Personally, it’s hard for me not to find his primary goal—belonging, conformity—somewhat unworthy. But it matters so much to Harold, and he is such a schlub, that you can’t help having sympathy. Lloyd even attempts (for the one and only time) moments of Chaplinesque pathos in this movie. Harold’s girl learns the students have been making fun of him and she tells him so. Harold puts on a brave face at first and then cries, and we can’t help feeling for him.  “Make them like you for what you really are,” she tells him. This message would have redeemed the film morally in my eyes if it had been carried through the picture, but then it gets abandoned. Because what ends up happening is Harold redeems himself by winning the big football game. Tenaciousness wins the day. But the message remains one of social conformity. But yet again — that may be why, it was and is one of Lloyd’s most successful pictures with the public. It’s also, not incidentally, a really good movie.

More info and tickets go here: http://filmforum.org/film/the-freshman-ffjr-film

To learn more about silent 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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Sunday at the Schimmel Center: Harold Lloyd in “The Freshman”

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , , , , on October 9, 2015 by travsd

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Sunday at 2pm at Pace University’s Schimmel Center: Harold Lloyd’s classic feature length silent comedy The Freshman (1925) with music by the one and only Ben Model.

The Freshman is up there with Safety Last as being one of Lloyd’s most lasting, definitive statements. The plot concerns Harold’s first year at college and his attempts to make good on the football team. Personally, it’s hard for me not to find his primary goal—belonging, conformity—somewhat unworthy. But it matters so much to Harold, and he is such a schlub, that you can’t help having sympathy. Lloyd even attempts (for the one and only time) moments of Chaplinesque pathos in this movie. Harold’s girl learns the students have been making fun of him and she tells him so. Harold puts on a brave face at first and then cries, and we can’t help feeling for him.  “Make them like you for what you really are,” she tells him. This message would have redeemed the film morally in my eyes if it had been carried through the picture, but then it gets abandoned. Because what ends up happening is Harold redeems himself by winning the big football game. Tenaciousness wins the day. But the message remains one of social conformity. But yet again — that may be why, it was and is one of Lloyd’s most successful pictures with the public. It’s also, not incidentally, a really good movie.

More info and tickets here. 

To learn more about silent 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

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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Tonight (Tomorrow) on TCM: Harold Lloyd in “The Kid Brother”

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on September 13, 2015 by travsd

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Tonight (tomorrow morning really) at 12:30am (EST) on Turner Classic Movies:  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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