Monday, April 20, 2009

DVR-TiVo-Or whatever recording device strikes your fancy-Alert!

Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of the great silent comedian Harold Lloyd, and TCM has devoted a good part of the day to showcasing many of his features…though for a great silent comic they appear to have dug into more of Lloyd’s sound films than the silent classics. I heartily recommend Girl Shy (1924; 7:15am) and For Heaven’s Sake (1926; 8:45am); Shy has one of the very best climactic chases in the history of silent comedy (though Harold’s stuttering character may be a bit off-putting to some) and Heaven’s is in the same ball park, with a wrap-up film historian Leonard Maltin once remarked exceeded that of the famous vehicle pursuit in The French Connection (1971).

Of the sound offerings, Movie Crazy (1932; 11:30am) is probably Lloyd’s best talkie…though you might also want to catch The Milky Way (1936; 3:00pm) as well, a comedy directed by Leo McCarey that stars Harold as a milkman-turned-boxer (it was remade in 1946 with Danny Kaye as The Kid From Brooklyn). But the gem you’re going to want to set your recorders for comes on at 6:15 pm; a rare showing of Harold Lloyd’s Funny Side of Life (1963). Funny Side was a follow-up to a successful compilation of clips from Lloyd’s film career released a year earlier entitled Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy (1962; it precedes Funny Side at 4:30 pm) but it didn’t do as well at the box office as the first film and was subsequently withdrawn for a good many years, making it most difficult to see.

TCM also has a pair of rarities to showcase after Funny Side: Kelly the Second (1936) was an effort by producer to launch Patsy Kelly into feature films as a fiery fight promoter who attempts to make truck driver Guinn “Big Boy” Williams a champeen fighter. Patsy had much better luck in movies as a supporting player or comic relief, but this breezy little comedy does give her a chance to shine on her own…and includes an appearance by two-reel comedy star Charley Chase, not to mention Pert Kelton (who also appears alongside Kelly in the 1936 two-reeler Pan Handlers), Ed Brophy and ‘Slapsie’ Maxie Rosenbloom. Afterward, one of the best comedies in the history of cinema unspools at 9:15pm: Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), starring the peerless Charles Laughton as a veddy British butler “won” in a poker game by roughneck Charlie Ruggles (yes, I know it’s a bit of a stretch…but Ruggles pulls it off with amazing ease). Charlie is joined by his frequent on-screen partner Mary Boland, along with ZaSu Pitts and Roland Young. Eat, drink and be merry at this wealth of comedy treasures today!


Samuel Wilson said...

The Cat's Paw may be Lloyd's most underrated talkie, though I might infer from your not mentioning its place in today's schedule that you disagree. TCM seems to follow the Lloyd estate and New Line Home Video in ignoring both the alpha (Welcome Danger) and omega (Professor Beware) of Lloyd's self-produced talkie career. The channel has run Danger before, but I haven't seen Professor anywhere since a long-ago showing during the golden age of AMC.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

No, I'll throw in with you that The Cat's Paw is definitely underrated--though my leaving it off the list might have something more to do with its curio status (it really is an odd little film, and somewhat out of character for Lloyd) than any animosity toward it. Like you, I remember seeing Professor Beware on "the golden age of AMC" (I don't remember being too overwhelmed by it) and I have Welcome Danger on DVD (I bought the Region 2 set and sold my Region 1 collection on eBay a while back) but I just haven't gotten around to checking it out yet.