Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
Review by Veronika Ferdman
Posted on 15 April 2012
Source 35mm print
Categories TCM Classic Film Festival 2012
Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton have been elbowing one another for the title of Greatest (Silent) Comedian of All Time for almost a century. But sometimes the weeds that grow up between the roses and daises prove themselves to be just as beautiful, colorful, and resilient. With a few shorts and unaccredited features aside, Harold Lloyd never really established himself as a director, but he was no less the consummate artist and devout perfectionist. During a pre-screening Q&A for his 1924 film, Girl Shy, Lloyd’s granddaughter revealed that he paid scrupulous attention to audience responses during test screenings, and if a gag or joke didn’t garner the type of reaction expected he would go back and re-shoot scenes or re-work the material.
In Girl Shy, Lloyd becomes an antidote to Buster Keaton’s Great Stone Face—shy smiles and a face radiating earnestness. He plays a man who is terribly afraid of (if nonetheless fascinated by) women. He is so introverted that coming into contact with a woman sends him stuttering, unable to get a sentence out. And yet, with no actual experience with the opposite sex, he pens a book entitled The Secret of Making Love. This book serves as a dreamed autobiography of his many conquests as well as an instruction manual of sorts on how to win the affection of different types of women such as “The Vamp” or “The Flapper.” (With “The Flapper” one must, of course, behave like a caveman because nothing sets a girl’s heart beating faster than being thrown against a wall.)
Naturally, it doesn’t take Lloyd long to meet the girl of his dreams, who after some plot dramatics is set to marry another man, and at the 11th hour Lloyd must stop the wedding. (And there is nothing like watching a couple of classic American romantic comedies back-to-back to cast in relief just how popular of a storytelling trope this is—Hollywood boils with lasses almost marrying the wrong lads.) The last twenty minutes or so of the film are devoted to Lloyd in cars, on horseback, on foot, weaving in and out of traffic, almost colliding, averting one obstacle after another, getting stuck for a moment only to tirelessly, like Wiley E. Coyote, continue on with his forward thrust of motion. Although we never forget where to and why Lloyd is hurrying plot becomes inconsequential in this last sequence that serves as a rhapsody of ceaseless, dizzying movement, every bit the equal of the flawlessly timed orchestrations of Keaton and Chaplin.
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