Archive for March 18, 2018

The Sunday Intertitle: Switchboards and Switchbacks

Posted in FILM with tags , on March 18, 2018 by dcairns

Harold Lloyd’s Coney Island comedy NUMBER PLEASE is very good, but not quite great. It uses the classic Lloyd formula of “islands” — comic set-pieces joined by narrative chains, corresponding to Kubrick’s demand of his writers: “Just give me six non-submersible units.” Filmmaking as pontoon bridge.

Here, the joins are logical enough but the big moments still feel like they COULD be in other films. And Harold’s pushy go-getter on the make isn’t as sympathetic as his best roles, though his goal is romance and that OUGHT to be likable. The world loves a lover.


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The big scene is a protracted torture by telephone where Harold tries to get mama’s consent to date the pretty daughter, but getting past the inept switchboard operator actually takes longer than his rival’s journey overland to achieve the same goal. One can certainly identify, even if the switchboard operator of yore has gone the way of the rumble seat.

I feel that, even if we no longer require switchboard operators in our jet-age, push-button modern world of fax machines, Viewmasters and Spirographs, there should still be SOME job description that requires people to wear little trumpets on their chests. Maybe head of state?

Oh, and there’s this lovely image ~