Archive for July 21, 2019

The Sunday Intertitle: Him

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2019 by dcairns

My complimentary copies of THE KID BROTHER arrived. I did a video essay about Harold Lloyd’s comedy persona and about his work with Josephine the monkey. There’s even a Henry King reference, from before I got facinated with Mr. K. To see it, you can buy the disc or access it on the Criterion Channel if you’re a member.

Also included are two early Lloyd shorts, OVER THE FENCE and THAT’S HIM. These have never been previously released on home video, to my knowledge, and survive only on home-cine formats in 9.5mm and 28mm. This also means they’re incomplete, severely cut down in the case of the former, which was the first appearance of Lloyd’s glasses character. What remains of it is pretty weak as comedy but essential viewing as history. Regular Lloyd antagonist Snub Pollard’s weird kabuki makeup is only one of the unamusing but fascinating attractions.

A nice debut for Mr. Glasses, revealed behind a dimishing stack of boxes.

THAT’S HIM, asides from being more complete, is much more winning and funny, with care taken to establish sympathy for the everyman protagonist. If the structure seems not fully resolved, that may be partly due to the truncation, though this one is a lot more intact.

The blackface train porter is the only bum note, but a historically revealing one. He’s in full minstrel get-up, not even trying to pass as the real thing. Maybe that’s actually 1% MORE defensible than the casting of a white guy in shoe polish in Keaton’s SEVEN CHANCES? They want you to notice it and be amused by it, they’re not just trying to avoid paying a black actor.

“Unfortunate” would still be a fair description of the scene, though.

That aside, both shorts showcase early Lloyd with Pollard and Bebe Daniels, the dream team. Real Loyd fans need to own this, even disregarding the main attraction.

Many thanks to Karen Stetler and all at Criterion.

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