Archive for Harold Lloyd

The Sunday Intertitle: Monkeyboots

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 16, 2018 by dcairns

Criterion have just announced their new releases, among which is Harold Lloyd’s THE KID BROTHER. Stephen C. Horne and I have contributed a video essay to this one, the first Anatomy Of A Gag piece to grace an actual Blu-Ray, I believe.

While going through the Lloyd family photo collection — an amazing trove of behind-the-scenes pics — I was kinda startled to be faced with a full-frontally naked man, stripped off to film a river scene. I immediately saw the possibilities for a truly exceptional edition of Film Directors With Their Shirts Off, but on reflection, is a nude Ted Wilde something we really need to see?

THE KID BROTHER might make a good Christmas present for the cinephile in your life, dare I suggest?

I’m currently in the edit on a Criterion project for the New Year… more later.


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.


No comment.

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 ~

The Sunday Intertitle: Gas-s-s-s Again

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2018 by dcairns

You don’t expect the disturbing from Harold Lloyd, the sunniest of the great silent comedians. The darkest business I knew of before watching RING UP THE CURTAIN was the menacing hobo in GRANDMA’S BOY, played by Dick Sutherland with considerable subhuman meanness. Critic Walter Kerr actually identified Lloyd’s unproblematic outlook as a problem: he risked blandness by being so All-American and nice and positive. The glasses helped suggest vulnerability, but as Kerr says, Keaton and Chaplin carried a shadow within them. So to avoid things getting too comfy, Lloyd heaped troubles on his character: hence those tall buildings.

RING UP THE CURTAIN is an early knockabout, when Lloyd hasn’t fully determined the parameters of his character or approach, I’d say: there was considerable flexibility in what Lloyd could embody (city swell or country boy) but he wasn’t generally loutish. In this one, he’s dressed all droog-like as a stage-hand, knocking over little people left right and centre. He tramples a dwarf, like Mr. Hyde carelessly knocking down that urchiness. There’s a romance (with Bebe Daniels) but it’s pursued with competitive toughness (Lloyd is often fiercely competitive, even later), which certainly doesn’t prepare you for him KILLING HIMSELF at the end.

Lloyd could do gags about attempted suicide and make that work fine with his persona, as did Keaton. Buster even succeeds at the end of COPS, which is a little dark and disturbing even for him. But in that case, the situation is comic and the neat structure establishes some kind of framework of APPROPRIATENESS. The Lloyd ending is just one of those random “how do we finish it?” jobs, with somebody saying, “Would it be funny if…?” and nobody else thinking of a better idea that week.

But really, Harold (and producer Hal Roach and director Alf Goulding), having your hero put his mouth to the gas nozzle and asphyxiate himself is not a socko finish.