Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Constantine Romanoff, Walter James
Director: Ted Wilde, Harold Lloyd
Harold Hickory (Lloyd) is the youngest son of the Sherriff of Hickoryville and is often ignored by his father and huge older brothers. He takes on roles around the home, working smarter by creating better ways to do things, but he dreams of doing something wonderful like his father. One day he gets his chance when he rescues Mary (Ralston), who has inherited a medicine show that has come to town, from her rapacious colleague Sandoni (Romanoff). As they fall for each other, Sandoni manages to steal the towns money and blame it on the Sherriff. Only Harold can find the truth, get the towns money back, win his family’s honour back, get his family’s respect AND get the girl. Phew!
Silent comedies from this era were so audacious and full of physical comedy, and really seemed to fight to outdo each other and also for the stars to outdo themselves, pushing to greater heights and bigger stunts. While I have shared films with you from Chaplin, who is perhaps the best remembered from this era, and from Buster Keaton who is less well remembered but who I personally like better, this is the first time I’ve talked about Harold Lloyd, who is kind of the third in this triumvirate of comedy kings.
Harold Lloyd seemed to speak to the youthful, exuberant personality of the Jazz Age, and is a little of his time in that era. Big on physical stunts and creative use of props, his sort of cheerful personality is his trademark, as opposed to Busters dreamer and Chaplins lovable tramp. He’s got a bit of an All American feel to him, innovative and seeking to prove himself. This film is considered to be one of his best works and makes a great introduction to this silent star. Things to look out for are his funny inventions to help him with household chores and a scene where the camera is on a lift and follows him as he climbs up a tree.
There’s a lot going on in this film, with his home life and rescuing Mary and also saving the town. It’s full of set peices with bits of business, comedy and stunts playing out and then moving to the next scene. It actually took me a little while to sort out the plot in my mind, but I have to say, I didn’t really mind. I liked the site gags and little moments.
I love the screen sirens of silent film, and Jobyna Ralston as Mary is very sweet and pretty. Though she doesn’t have quite as much of the delicate beauty of the Gish sisters (or their lighting techniques), she has large expressive eyes and lovely shining sausage curl ringlets, and a comedienne in her own right. Big points also go to Romanoff as Sandoni, who makes an incredibly creepy bad guy! His menace and his coveting looks at Mary are delightfully evil, he’s a wonderful and pretty scary villain.
You can find this film on YouTube and if you like physical comedy and slapstick, I think that you really should check it out but I feel like feature length silent films can be a little intimidating for the average viewer. Either way, consider Harold Llyod as one of the original kings of comedy.
See It If: you ever felt like you had to live up to your older siblings. The shot of Lloyd sandwiched between his huge older brothers is so funny and evocative. One of Lloyd’s best realised films.