The Sunday Intertitle: Him

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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10 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Him”

  1. Randy Cook Says:

    Both films show Harold with all ten fingers. Thanks for the recommendation, just watched on Criterion Channel (along w/ a sampling of the Lloyd home movies, which gives those morbidly inclined among us a glimpse of his three-fingered hand)

  2. I’m curious about the weird altercation with an extravagantly dressed guy in the ticket line in OVER THE FENCE. Appears to be some detail left over from the pruning of the two-reeler down to five minutes, but seemed vaguely nasty. Why does Harold blow smoke in the guy’s face?

  3. ehrenstein47 Says:

  4. There’s a second volume of Charley Chase Hal Roach talkies, released by the Sprocket Vault. Thus far it’s as enjoyable as the first, despite only one Thelma Todd appearance (she’d been promoted to her own series of shorts with Zasu Pitts).

    For a long time Chase was represented only by his silents and his turn in “Sons of the Desert” — great stuff admittedly. Chase’s later Columbia shorts are, like Keaton’s, good for Columbia shorts — faint praise admittedly. But in the Roach talkies he’s often playing at Stan & Ollie levels.

    The commentator notes that while Harold Lloyd clung to his identity as a sprightly lad, Chase modulated his dapper if easily flustered young gent into what he called the Nance: more of a milquetoast with a goofy streak. This was a character he could play as his real age, and might well have continued if he’d lived longer.

  5. Yes, there’s a distinct change in Chase’s talkie persona. I haven’t seen enough of them yet to decide if I really like them, but I must get this set.

  6. There are two sets so far; a third would probably cover all the remaining / surviving Chase shorts. The same outfit has also released two Thelma Todd sets: One with the shorts she did with Zasu Pitts, and the other with her Patsy Kelly teamings (After Todd’s death they tried pairing Kelly with other comediennes. Those are in the Todd-Kelly set).

    One of the shorts on the new Chase set has a “Film Classics” title card, indicating a television release. This surprised me, as I have no memory of ANY Hal Roach sound shorts on TV outside of Laurel and Hardy and the Rascals.

  7. And I gather another one has those scary twins who also introduced a random Laurel & Hardy short.

  8. The scary twins appear in the first set — once, I think. Another short-lived Roach experiment was having a theater organist score a film while watching it on a screen; also on the first set.

  9. I remember the scary twins appearing more than twice when TCM marathoned a load of early Roach shorts. It was the strangest introduction I’d seen in film of that era. I don’t think I caught any of the theater organist shorts, although I may have recorded some and haven’t watched.

  10. “Come and play with us, Stanley…”

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