Archive for Lloyd Hamilton

The Sunday Intertitle: DeMille’s Vision

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 17, 2019 by dcairns

Nyah, I seen better.

The LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD featurettes offer a lot of useful views of the film community in the twenties, and a lot of heavily staged vignettes of movie celebrities going about their business. The [TOP DIRECTOR/ACTOR] FORGETS HIS STUDIO PASS routine seems to have been a popular trope. Maurice Tourneur and Lloyd Hamilton both tried that one, though only “Ham” blacked up for it.

We are presented with DeMille’s luxury studio, then minutes later, with a shot of DeMille pondering his next screen story. An intertitle gives us invaluable background so we can interpret the image correctly.

But, for reasons best known to himself, C.B. has opted to play it not as “There is a lack of tension in the second act,” but as “I HATE MY LIFE.”

Figure 1 (above). He flips the heavy folder (around three hundred pages, by the look of it) closed with a contemptuous gesture, then stares at the binder as if contemplating throwing it at somebody’s head.

Figure 2. He gives it a really hard stare, as if to melt it with his heat vision. (Little-known fact: Cecil B. DeMille had heat vision. But it only worked on model boats. So he would always keep at least one model boat nearby in case he wanted to impress Florence Vidor with his heat vision.)

Figure 3. Cecil collapses in despair. He has realised that not only is his second act lacking in tension, but “Cecil” is an unimposing name and the dynamic initial “B” does not do enough to compensate, and anyway, heat vision is a rubbish superpower for a motion picture director, more counter-productive than anything.

Never mind, Cec!

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The Sunday Intertitle: Ham

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 11, 2013 by dcairns

ham

Just discovered another silent clown. Lloyd Hamilton was admired by Chaplin and Keaton but his career combusted in a welter of alcohol and violence.

You wouldn’t think it to look at him: Ham’s screen persona is rather diffident, with a fear of sex that recalls both Harry Langdon and Laurel & Hardy. He’s chubby, with a baby’s face that’s also a bit feminine. Seeing him feels like discovering the actual person that Peter Bull is a caricature of. Not particularly acrobatic (a stuntman seems to be employed for the tricky stuff here) he’s still a physically graceful actor, and his facial reactions are a delight.

Walter Kerr, the greatest of all writers on silent comedy, describes Hamilton thus ~ “a plumpish man with dainty fingers, a waddle for a walk, and a pancake hat set horizontally on the prim, doughy moon of his face,” which is bang on.

Lloyd Hamilton from David Cairns on Vimeo.

The striking weakness of this movie, which has several very strong sequences (the kittens!), is the total lack of structure. Most Laurel & Hardy films of the period had tight, farce plotting in which nothing was inessential but everything was presented as if it were throwaway. The Fatty Arbuckle films Buster Keaton starred in typically fell into two, rather unrelated halves. But this one is a triptych — Lloyd as hapless debt collector is followed by a misadventure with a woman (the only hint of story planning is the way she’s established at the start before she’s needed) and the adventure is rounded off with a Harold Lloyd type high-rise thrill sequence which has nothing to do with anything and which necessitates the invention of two chums for Lloyd — although why they’re actually necessary I’m not sure.

I don’t think the freeform approach is a deliberate choice — I assume that when you’re churning these films out on a weekly basis, the first draft of anything is good enough. When some of us sit down and write, what comes out has a kind of shape automatically, defective though it may be. This work was probably the product of competing gag men and whoever shouted loudest got their bit in the film. Not a sensible way to work, but the film has energy and some very big laughs and I want to see more of this Hamilton fellow.

Anthology Series: Forgotten Comics – Vol. 3
Lloyd Hamilton Talkies, 1929-1933