Hal RoachHarold LloydBebe Daniels
Harold Lloyd 1919 comedy shorts: four out of 39
Including: Ask Father, Billy Blazes Esq., Bumping into Broadway, From Hand to Mouth
Medium: short film
Year: 1919
Director: Hal Roach, Alfred J. Goulding
Producer: Hal Roach
Writer: Hal Roach, Harold Lloyd, H.M. Walker
Actor: Harold Lloyd, Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis, Peggy Cartwright, Snub Pollard, Sammy Brooks, Billy Fay
Country: USA
Keywords: comedy, silent
Format: 4 short films
Url: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Lloyd
Website category: Comedy
Review date: 4 July 2017
I'd previously reviewed all of Harold Lloyd's 1920 and 1921 short comedy films, but I'm not doing that for 1919. That was his most productive year for shorts. I've got four of them on DVD, which probably means they're among the best of that crop. (They are indeed pretty good. This is the Harold Lloyd: The Definitive Collection DVD box set, by the way.)
Here's a Harold Lloyd filmography, which I compiled from wikipedia and is unlikely to be completely accurate. His earliest film appearances in particular are unconfirmed and/or uncredited.
1913 - 7 shorts
1914 - 5 shorts
1915 - 28 shorts, half as Lonesome Luke
1916 - 34 shorts (Lonesome Luke)
1917 - 31 shorts (20 as Lonesome Luke, then 11 as "The Boy" in glasses)
1918 - 34 shorts
1919 - 39 shorts
1920 - 6 shorts
1921 - 4 shorts + 1 feature
1922-4 - 2 features/year
1925 onwards - 1 feature/year, although that eventually started declining
In other words, I've only seen about ten per cent of his 1919 output. Most of these also star Bebe Daniels and Snub Pollard, who'd been his regular co-stars for years, but Mildred Davis shows up in From Hand to Mouth too. (That was their first film together, apparently.)
ASK FATHER
It's funny. It's one of my favourite Harold Lloyd shorts so far, in fact, and Natsuki liked it too.
Lloyd's playing a young man who wants to marry his boss's daughter, but talking to him about her is like assaulting a castle. (At one point Lloyd does actually wear a medieval suit of armour.) The moat is the boss's office door. The trapdoor into the dungeons is an actual trapdoor that the evil old goat has had installed for no sane reason. He also has a moving carpet that can turn into a conveyor belt and a receptionist so accustomed to people getting thrown out violently that she stacks up cushions in the corridor. At one point Lloyd goes outside the building and climbs up its exterior. This was one of the last films Lloyd made while he still had ten fingers. (He had an accident with a prop bomb.)
Bebe Daniels is great, incidentally. She's vivacious and the change of romantic affections at the end made me laugh. "Alas, I have no father." (Lloyd rejoices.)
BILLY BLAZES, ESQ
It's another Western parody, although his 'An Eastern Westerner' the following year is better. What's odd about it is that it's being played comparatively straight, although the intertitles are flippant and it would seem that the only effect of being shot in the backside three times is to make you hide under the bed. We get gunfighting, girl-kidnapping baddies and a cowardly sheriff. Lloyd shows up for two-fisted heroics. It's quite a fun film, but it's not really the finished article if you're judging it as a comedy.
It also has a stereotyped Chinese waiter with a waist-length pigtail, who shuffles along as if he's had his ankles nailed together. He's a bit unfortunate, especially since I think the actor's a caucasian in Chinese makeup.
BUMPING INTO BROADWAY
It's about the theatre life. Lloyd plays a struggling playwright with a pretty, equally poor neighbour (Bebe Daniels) and a scary landlady. (He should save rent by room-sharing, although of course he's too much of a gentleman for this to have occurred to him. However at one point the idea seems to occur to a man-hungry old harridan who lives downstairs and is played by a man in drag.) Lloyd also has an amazing, ancient typewriter with no shift key (invented 1878). It has two keyboards, one for upper-case characters and another for lower-case.
Later the plot goes off in a completely different direction (as often happens in these films). Lloyd finds himself in a gambling club and manages to break the bank without even realising what's going on, but then the police raid the place. There's lots of action and chasing. It's cleverly done and a very good film.
FROM HAND TO MOUTH
It's a bit Chaplinesque, which is a throwback for Lloyd since his Lonesome Luke character had been a Chaplin rip-off. It's also sweet and heartwarming, while teetering on the edge of "disturbingly amoral". (Which is Chaplinesque too.)
Lloyd's dirt poor and starving. He bumps into a little girl who's just as hungry as him, so he hugs her and tries to look after her. (It's lovely, but if you did it today you'd probably get arrested.) That said, though, at one point he goes chasing after her for stealing his biscuit. Oh, and Mildred Davis is the kind of girl who'll see a stranger in trouble in the street and immediately save his neck by paying his debts for him. That's all likeable. I'd have happily watched a whole series of Lloyd-and-Waif films. However there's also the amorality, i.e. stealing food, trying to steal a wallet full of money, fleeing from policemen and eventually breaking into a house to let in burglars. Lloyd will always melt on learning that his latest victim is Mildred Davis, though.
If you can handle this duality, though, it's a good film. (Lloyd briefly smokes again, though. I've seen him smoke a lot in these shorts.) There's a pretty good subplot about a crooked lawyer trying to swindle Davis out of a fortune and I love Lloyd's tactic for forcing useless cops to pay attention. Besides, the happy charm is real. (The ending has Lloyd, Davis and the Waif eating a meal together.)
In short: I enjoyed 'em. Let's see if Natsuki's capable of sitting through a Harold Lloyd feature film...