Archive for Harry Langdon

The Sunday Intertitle: After His Worm

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 18, 2016 by dcairns


Frank Capra’s big lie — that comedian Harry Langdon did not invent, and thus did not understand, his own screen persona — is shown up in THREE’S A CROWD, which Langdon directed himself. He certainly understood that slowness was central to his approach — he spends the first five minutes failing to get out of bed. What Langdon didn’t understand, I think, is story and structure.

Still, I like the design of this film. Harry lives in a bizarre shack positioned atop a vertiginous single flight of stairs that has the precarious ricketiness of a rope bridge. Like Henry Spencer’s hovel in ERASERHEAD, with its rumbling industrial exterior sound, the Langdon residence seems unsure if it is indoors or out, an effect largely created by the bedside street lamp, though the bicycle helps.


It makes sense that manchild/angeldevil inhabits a liminal space, where the dented alarm clock in the wide shot transforms into a brick in closeup, apparently a continuity glitch left by a deleted gag. Everything about Harry is undefinable, from his age to his gender, or almost.

The Sunday Intertitle: Soldier of Misfortune

Posted in FILM with tags , , on August 16, 2015 by dcairns


My ingenuity, such as it is, fails me — I know of no way to connect today’s intertitle with 70s Sci-Fi Week, which commences tomorrow. But hopefully this title card from the Frank Capra co-scripted SOLDIER MAN, amuses. the film stars Harry Langdon as the last American soldier in Europe, who hasn’t realized the war is over. You could have lots of fun with a character like that running around bayoneting bewildered civilians, I guess, but the film chooses not to go there.


I mean, is this the face of a killer? Even stranded in “Bomania” and desperate for food, Langdon does not set out to make things happen, and for the film’s first few minutes does nothing but sit on a tree stump and look at his diary. He doesn’t even make an entry.

Capra was fond of claiming he invented Langdon’s comedy persona, which was quite untrue, but he deserves credit for devising situations where this largely passive figure could be put through his tottering paces. If the situation is active enough, the still figure in the centre becomes compelling.

Silent but deadly

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 21, 2012 by dcairns

Harry Langdon time again. This time via The Forgotten, over at The Daily Notebook. Seems Richard Brody is right — Langdon was a talented director.