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.