Thursday, August 10, 2017

Harold's moment of glory

Ten seconds of movie history! The scene that secured Harold Lloyd as one of the three great geniuses of silent comedy.


Bears run! 
Gators hide!
Poor little kitty
Gonna go for a ride!
Dogs scamper
Flowers cringe
And the poor armadillo
Is going off its hinge
(the cranes)
(the cranes)
The rockin' and a-rollin'
Peckin' and a-trollin'
Gopher-eatin', bear chasin', wing-flappin'

The actor: Harold Lloyd's reaction shots

A memorable Harold Lloyd reaction shot from Girl Shy. Harold plays a yokel whose book "How to Make Love" has just been rejected by a publisher as ridiculous and worthless. But his expression isn't a reaction to that humiliation. This was his one chance to win a very wealthy girl he has fallen in love with, and that dream has just turned to dust.  

This scene proves what Hal Roach famously said: "Harold Lloyd was not a comedian. But he was the best actor playing a comedian who ever lived." Any dramatic actor would be hard-pressed to sustain scenes of emotional distress with such skill. 

He himself didn't think he was very funny, but he could "do" funny superbly. His pathos never turned to bathos, as sometimes happened with Chaplin (whose films are much more dated than Harold's). And as Roach said, Harold was a plausible leading man whose romantic quests weren't vaguely creepy or driven by pity.

Harold didn't wear a clown suit or pull faces or do any of the things silent comics did to get a laugh. He was an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and his complete inability to cope brought the audience on-side like nothing else. But when he triumphed in the end, all of our own failed fantasies were brilliantly realized. 

And one more thing - he always got the girl.