The Sunday Intertitle: Home Help

From the early Douglas Fairbanks vehicle THE NUT. That dead polar bear is doing more than tying the room together, by the way — it’s radiating influence.

Heroine Marguerite de la Motte is a social reformer, opening her house to slum kids in the hopes that the attractive furnishings will improve their morals. Hey, it could work.

Charming movie, with many Heath Robinson contraptions built by Doug’s character — maybe the first film to depict an automated house, and a character’s morning routine as he’s conveyor-belted from bed to bath to wardrobe. He also has a parrot trained as an alarm clock. Not sure how you could train it to know the time, but these birds are very smart…

The superimposed speech bubble is an uncommon device, but it’s absolutely the right gimmick for the gag: it removes any ambiguity about where the words are coming from, and allows us to see the bird and word at the same time — instantaneousness is vital for comic effect, you know. You want the viewer to put it all together at once, so that the idea clicks into place and a laugh is triggered. And when a whole audience clicks at the same time, the laughter is multiplied and amplified.

I want to see more by director Theodore “Ted” Reed.

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2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Home Help”

  1. This brings my favorite Ozu film Record of a Tenement Gentleman to mind. Of course Ozu wasn’t at all concerned with interior decoration but rather the plight of children displaced by WWII.

  2. I haven’t seen that one! But I have a copy, I must run it. He was a great director of kids (among other things).

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