The Sunday Intertitle: The Kind That Has A Club That Belongs To Him

I got curious about Lonesome Luke, Harold Lloyd’s pre-glasses character (I’m *still* curious about Willie Work, his OTHER pre-G.C.).

Turns out that Lloyd, like Chaplin (HIS PREHISTORIC PAST), Keaton (THE THREE AGES) and Laurel & Hardy (THUNDERING FLEAS FLYING ELEPHANTS) had a Stone Age jaunt, via dream sequence in this case.

As it’s directed by Hal Roach, it gets bogged down pretty quickly. A bunch of characters in pelts pelt each other with clubs. One becomes conscious of the potential for confusion in a society where a blow on the head can be part of a mating ritual OR an act of aggression. It would be pretty easy to misread the signals, especially when suffering blunt force trauma to the brain.

This whole caveman bit is people hitting each other with clubs. It makes the average Punch and Judy show look like À la recherche du temps perdu. They don’t even vary it by having a woman heft a bludgeon. Matriarchal society my ass. It would be fair to say that Stone Age comedy gets old fast.

The anarchic brutality of the framing story is quite a bit more entertaining.

Hal Roach used to worry about the tran slation onf intertitles, something that was out of his hands. Here, we get, alternatively, “Officer 728 was like two rounds of fries,” and “Officer 728 couldn’t get a headline.” I don’t find the context any help, either.

Fascinating to see many of Harold’s familiar expressions and mannerisms emerge through a totally different character. Like Mr. Laurel, he can play someone different, but watching today we can’t help notice the similarities, because the same face muscles are being used.

Obviously, though — REALLY obviously — there’s no meaningful delineation between Lloyd/Luke and Snub Pollard as his chum. That’s going to need fixing.

9 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The Kind That Has A Club That Belongs To Him”

  1. Johan Schuurbiers Says:

    The intertitle ‘De agent 728 kan er geen kop aan krijgen’ is Flemish and means ‘Officer 728 doesn´t understand what´s going on’ which is not far off the mark.

  2. THAT makes sense. And the French one must be some kind of figure of speech.

    Google Translate doesn’t seem to recognize Flemland.

  3. Nitpick: The boys’ prehistoric epic was FLYING ELEPHANTS, justified by a trick shot of elephants flying south for the winter.

    Willis O’Brien did at least one silent stop-motion cartoon about comic cave folk, and eventually the Three Stooges would play cavemen. Late in its history the Fleischer Studio tried a series of Stone Age cartoons, with lots of anachronistic gags that would resurface in “The Flintstones”. The slightly more plausible “Alley Oop” hit the funny pages in 1932, giving our forebears the manners and slang of big-city mugs. Despite its long-running success it never got filmed to my knowledge, aside from a brief run as part of a Saturday morning cartoon show.

    Was DW Griffith the first to film prehistoric man? It must have hit everybody that the subject was not only exotic and sexy, but arguably educational (to offset the sex) and cheap to boot. NICKELODEON has a montage of the heroes’ cheap shorts, including a brief bit of Burt Reynolds and company mugging in prehistoric drag.

  4. Topical note: Alley Oop featured the only fictional moon landing ever to correctly predict that the event would be broadcast live on television. And that’s all I know about the strip.

    I’m not sure if Griffith invented the caveman movie, but it could explain his involvement in One Million BC — but Hal Roach was always keen on catching falling stars.

  5. La Faustin Says:

    Learn something new every day! The French expression “être/rester comme deux ronds de frites” (or “de flan”, for those who prefer sweet to savory) means to be flabbergasted. Its origins are lost in the mists of time or the internet — lots of speculation on French message boards, one veering into a consideration of the English expression “to have a chip on one’s shoulder” and wondering what fried potatoes had to do with it.

  6. In GIRL SHY would-be author Lloyd writes of conquering a flapper with his “CAVE MAN methods”. It was a comedic (and sometimes dramatic) cliche, usually presented as a winning system. To this day “pick up artists” peddle Lloyd’s approach unironically. References to and occasional visualizations of a cave man often figure in these scenarios.

    To wit:

  7. Lloyd/Luke gets his inspiration from a magazine article in this one.

    It’s a good film to watch to confirm Roach’s lack of story sense and structural awareness. It just… spasms about.

  8. I feel a need to parse this: Luke and Snub are sociopathic in their horniness, making passes at women who are actively canoodling with their boyfriends (Chaplin would be aware he had to finesse the competition). One brutish character seems to be spurning his affection-hungry wife until our heroes show up. Then he’s jealous and violent.

    Dream sequence: It seems they’ve found an epoch where clubbing rivals and grabbing obedient women is acceptable, but the guys gang up and force the newcomers into servitude — there are societal norms to be respected. The women became literal cattle, being herded around as a nervous flock. Luke and Snub feed all the guys to an alligator, and become the alphas to an adoring harem.

    Back in the park, unchanged by their dream. They beat up the cop. When they beat up the brutish guy the women abruptly merge into that adoring prehistoric harem, to the understandable confusion of the menfolk. Rivals and cops brawl and row boats, and the women remain a single sheeplike entity until their respective original mates pull them away. The brute’s wife becomes maternal when he’s semi-conscious. Luke and Snub escape.

    It plays like an imitation Keystone, pointlessly crowded by more players. Probably a few scripted gags, but not nearly enough. Park bench flirtation devolving to Darwinian combat isn’t a new comic conceit — heck, that’s dozens of one-reelers and the entire run of Popeye animated cartoons — but this one BEGINS with the heroes at canine level and stays there. Even Popeye and Bluto made efforts to impress and please Olive Oyl before trying to smooch her and kill each other. A later Lloyd would have opened with the meek Harold losing a girl to a caveman type, fantasizing himself as an efficiently tough caveman, and finally routing the competition with a twist on caveman ways.

  9. Even in a few of the early glasses films where Harold’s character is sometimes shockingly aggressive (dwarf-kicking!), which is disconcerting, his glasses and smart look soften things a bit.

    With clowns, costume design is destiny.

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