Archive for August 23, 2009

Intertitle of the Week: Les Petites Baigneuses

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 23, 2009 by dcairns

Excuse my French.

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This is from a Keystone comedy with Harry Langdon, from the period when Sennett was pushing him into the usual manic style of slapstick favoured at that benighted studio. It’s not that Langdon is bad at this kind of thing, just that the furious pace and energy and air of general robust hi-jinks kind of erases what’s distinctive about him — which is sappy, infantile, neurasthenic and pallid indolence. No room for that here.

Interesting to see Roy Del Ruth directing at this time: I associate him so much with the rapid-fire, impactful cross-talk of ’30s pre-code pics that silent comedy comes as a surprise, but there’s certainly shared turf.

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The movie seems to be missing bits, so the set-up comes by way of about five intertitles at the start, which is weird. Then the funniest business, Harry in bed with his bearded dad (Andy Clyde), and a draft keeps blowing the beard into Harry’s face, tickling him. He tucks the beard under the duvet, but dad pulls it out. This is repeated, so we know a variation-punchline is on its way, but what? He could scissor the offending foliage off… being Langdon, he might just randomly punch his dad in the face (the bursts of random violence are somehow not incompatibly with his air of dissipated babyhood)… but no, Harry fetches a convenient paper bag with a drawstring and bags the beard. Very nice indeed.

How do we get from the wintry farmhouse to the bathing beauties at the beach? Through the magic of typical Keystone structural incoherence. Still, I was surprised at how charming and sexy the bathing beauties were.

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