Tag Archives: harold lloyd

3rd Annual (or whenever) One Woman Film Festival report…

25 Oct

Probably this is not a festival you’re familiar with. It’s kind of exclusive. To wit:

redcarpetThe Wife and I invite a friend over to hang out in pyjamas all day one Sunday and watch movies. Said movies are curated in that a) it’s a trendy word and b) we put together a loose list that acts as kind of a mood-flexible flowchart (e.g., Stage Door can lead to Sunday in New York (young woman in the city) which in this case it did, but also potentially to The Great Garrick (backstage tales made in the 1930s), Baby Face (a very different sort of young woman in the city tale) or Vivacious Lady (more Ginger Rogers) which in this case it did not. Because we all liked the sound of Sunday in New York this time.

We’ve only done this twice before. Once was a double feature and was in no way organized. Next came another friend who watched three, maybe four with us in a semi-organized fashion. Then, this past Sunday, shit, as they say, got real.

A dear friend is moving to a fancy NYC job very soon. So we had her over at last for her One Woman Film Festival.

(Gender Note: there is no particular reason for excluding men from being invited. The proportion of our friends who would even want to do this are just overwhelmingly female.)

11am-2am. Fifteen hours. The slate, as it turned out:

The More the Merrier (1943);

Stage Door (1937);

Sunday in New York (1963);

The Apartment (1960);

From Hand to Mouth (1919);

His Girl Friday (1940);

and Theodora Goes Wild (1936).

I think the themes are clear. Rather than summarize these, follow the links for synopses or previous posts if they are by chance unfamiliar. I’m going to focus on the accidental connections that showed up, and then share a few group thoughts on each offering in the context of this festive day.

LITTLE THOUGHTS

The-More-The-Merrier-1943-3The More the Merrier:

Surprisingly erotic, this one, considering the presence of Charles Coburn, not usually a diapered cupid;

-This is one I should be throwing out more often in future Comedy vs. Drama arguments, because the craft on display here all around is at the highest possible level;

A really good Doff in this one by the man from the newspaper;

-This may also feature the most plausible floor show in classic film.

stage-Door)_01-788209Stage Door:

-Previous Post here;

I love the pace of this style, and yet fascinated by how Hepburn work in the middle, in-but-not-of the style;

-The fallacy of personal-tragedy-equals-Acting! bugs me as much as the equivalent buffoon-becomes-comic-genius trope – Almost Never True!;

-This is where the day’s conversations about women from pre-WWII into the mid-60s, dealing with the workforce changes of that era. We don’t jut sit around eating lentil soup and giggling, you know. We’re pretty high-toned.

sunday in nySunday in New York:

-Previous post here;

-Peter Nero is no Chico Marx, nor is he Henry Mancini – it can be tough to deal with a sex farce when it has a Charlie Brown score;

apart1The Apartment:

-This has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it in, I suppose, high school, but it’s even more so with age and life experience. The Robinson Crusoe speech brought a few tears this time, because I have become a total sap;

-No one blinks in unwilling disbelief like Shirley Maclaine;

-I think this movie is why I take my hat off in elevators, but not why I wear a hat;

-Santa Otis Campbell IS the face of urban decadence.

from hand to mouth lloydFrom Hand to Mouth:

-Oh, for the days when bikes and cars differed little in speed;

-This was a lucky one – it’s an early Lloyd and the sort of slapsticky thing that doesn’t always work for guests, but ours enjoyed it so she’ll surely like the really good later ones;

-Next to Keaton’s Cops, one the better uses of a silent comic hero’s tendency to be a police magnet.

his girl fridHis Girl Friday;

Besides the connections below, there was much talk about the careers of John Qualen and Cliff Edwards. I beg of you: ponder them.

theodoraTheodora Goes Wild:

-Previous Irene Dunne post here;

-This one just sort of washed over us all, exhausted, film-weary, and all with some experience with small town New England – simple pleasure, though there are always social depths to dive into another time.

 

And now the fun part…

UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS

apatmentI mean, clearly, yes, young woman comes from small town (New York believes all other places are small towns) to find housing, work, and human connection. This hovers around all of the above-named movies.

But the ways in which political machinations get in the way of people’s lives (Theodora Goes Wild, The More the Merrier, His Girl Friday) was unexpected. As were the mores of boys  and girls being left alone in apartments (pretty much all of them bring this up except the Harold Lloyd). These are odd, but not shocking.

But there were many surprising little synchronicities, like:

two consecutive unexpected appearances by Grady Sutton (The More the Merrier, Stage Door);

two rakish bowler hat (Snub Pollard and Jack Lemmon);

something we called “Sleazeball Gets a Shoeshine” (Menjou in Stage Door, Macmurray in The Apartment);

Lady Buys a $12 Hat (Arthur in The More the Merrier, Russell in His Girl Friday, and Theodora bought a LOT of hats, so surely one of them);

Take Off Those Wet Clothes, Mister (Sunday in New York, His Girl Friday);

Counterfeit money (From Hand to Mouth, His Girl Friday);

Apartment 2B (The More the Merrier and Dr. & Mrs. Dreyfus in The Aparment);

people just had spare toothbrushes and bathrobes around in the 60s (The Apartment, Sunday in New York);

Albany Sucks + a failed fiancée refuses a civil drink (His Girl Friday, Sunday in New York);

Women jumping out of windows (His Girl Friday, Stage Door, and brought up in The Apartment);

and, strangely, the literal pratfall, which is to say a very specific slip-on-wet-surface-and-slide-onto-keister in at least four, though my notes are unclear. There were, naturally, Manhattans.

DVR Alert: Keaton, Chaplin & Lloyd on TCM primetime 9/9

9 Sep

chaplin-portadaIn conjunction with the second episode of The Story of Film: an Odyssey,  TCM has loaded it’s schedule 8:00 p.m. into the wee hours with much of the best of the Holy Silent Clown Trinity, beginning with Keaton (One Week, Three Ages & The General), then Chaplin (City Lights & The Kid) and winding up with Lloyd (Never Weaken & Safety Last!).

I hope this bodes well for the loss of the sense of dour gravity that the first episode emphasized. While striving to maintain my Thumper’s Father policy, I have to say that there was an overall sense of debunking rather than one of enlightening. Even when the information is the same, the attitude makes a difference.

And more importantly, I hope we’ll spend some time appreciating Comedy Itself this week. This sort of thing generally leans into glorifying the Epic/Emotional more than the serious business of laughter.

LLooking Forward: Llots of Lloyd on TCM, Thursday, May 23

21 May

A long block of Harold Lloyd begins on TCM at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 23 with Safety Last! and ends with Hot Water, which starts at 5:00 the following a.m.

So here’s where I stand on the controversial question: I don’t believe it’s necessary to take sides, per se, regarding the Holy Trinity; each was a fine mime, a fine director/gag constructor (within their respective partnerships and stock companies) and each was a terrific actor in ways that were separate from  pantomime skill. But each has superstrengths.

 

Hot Water (1924)

Hot Water (1924)

Chaplin was the finest mime: his wrists, his elbows, his upper lip. Magic. Keaton the finest director: the construction and the execution. Man.

And Lloyd was, I think, the best actor in a more modern sense: or let’s say that the stories he chose to tell with his bespectacled persona allowed for more chance to feature this skill. There are always a couple of reminder gags to begin a Chaplin or Keaton tale, but not character development per se.

Perhaps this is the way to put it, that I may avoid vehement fans of one or the other or of a silent clown not included (and I’ll out myself as none of the above, swayed entirely by mood, though statistically Keaton fits my mood more often): all three made films about relationships. Chaplin’s tended toward the Little Tramp’s relationship with Society, Keaton’s were inevitably about that flat-Stetsoned man’s relationship with machine and nature. Lloyd’s, despite his reputation for large-scale stunt work,  were most often about much smaller sets of relationships – family and individuals. Which leaned into what would become romantic comedy, which he didn’t invent or anything, but was certainly doing it before that’s what they were calling it.

To me, he’s the beginning of the modern romantic comedy star. Often in Keaton and Chaplin, the boy-girl romance element is either taken for Girl-In-The-Picture granted or hurled headlong into melodrama of a 19th Century mold. In most mature Lloyd I believe that he’s developing some kind of mutual entanglement with The Girl In Question. Which, in comedy of the era is not something one can count on, is all.

Harold Lloyd is the first silent comedy I forced on my nephews, last summer (Safety Last). It’s easy to convince a couple of boys in the 10-12 range to watch Lloyd: tell them about his missing fingers and remind them if necessary. Then they freak out when he climbs around on buildings. (I also once made an adult friend, a lover of violent Hong Kong action and Tarantino stuff, watch this and when the climb got tense she screamed more than once and was very upset with me for making her suffer. It was pretty great.) That kind of life/death stuff draws them in nicely, and they’re more able to take the difference in pacing in stride.

Some of the shorts from the teens TCM is showing will be new to me, but well-beloved are the features: Safety Last (the one with the clock), The Freshman (“Folks call me Speedy!” (insert footwork)), Hot Water (which I need to see again – it’s been quite a while), and The Kid Brother (one of my favorite Lloyds of all, which…).

The Kid Brother (1927)

The Kid Brother (1927)

Jobyna bouncing on the basket, and the subsequent tears vs. rain confusion; the fight(s) with his cretin of a neighbor; the pointless humiliations of the medicine show charlatans; the joy the whole movie finds in hiding information from us just out of frame and then revealing it as if by accident (not a new trick in silent comedy, but it’s practically a theme in The Kid Brother); the Tree Climb, good lord, the Tree Climb, a mini-object lesson in how to incorporating stunts into actual character/plot development.

I had the pleasure of being part of a trio of musicians improvising a score to The Kid Brother a couple of years ago, which made me appreciate its rhythmic changeups all the more. It’s just a lovely, pleasing thing, and while I wouldn’t call it Lloyd’s best, it’s my sentimental favorite. Today.