Monday, May 26, 2003


I need to preface this by saying that I am not an expert on, nor a big fan of, silent movies. I've seen and liked a number of the acknowledged classics, like GREED, INTOLERANCE, and CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, but I don't tend to seek out silent films. Charlie Chaplin's appeal is beyond me and I don't think I've ever seen a Buster Keaton silent film. But I very much enjoyed this Harold Lloyd film, part of TCM's recent festival of his movies, most of which have not been seen in many years. Lloyd's persona seems to be sprightlier and more immediately likeable than Chaplin's--he's a generally nice guy who is mostly unaffected by the setbacks suffered in his adventures. In this one, Lloyd plays a lad named Harold whom we meet as he is about to set off to college. Because of a movie he saw, he thinks that the best way to introduce himself will be to dance a little jig, stick out his hand, and say, "Just call me Speedy!" When he gets to campus, this routine doesn't go over very well and he becomes the laughing stock of the freshmen class, but Lloyd remains oblivious to their reactions and assumes he is well on his way to becoming the next Big Man on Campus. Pretty young Jobyna Ralston is smitten with Lloyd and feels sorry for him as he is made the butt of jokes by unkind upperclassmen. Eventually, he manages to more or less accidently score the winning touchdown for his football team during the big game and he really does become accepted, with everyone adopting his shuffling jig greeting.

I love Lloyd's jig, cracking up each time he did it, and I liked his unceasing upbeat attitude. Three scenes stand out to me: a school dance where his tuxedo, which isn't quite finished, comes apart on the dance floor; his tryout for the football team, in which he winds up being used as a tackling dummy by the whole team; and the final game, which surely must have been an inspiration for the similar climactic scene in the Marx Brothers' HORSE FEATHERS a few years later; it comes off better here. There is a funny joke, still relevant in many a college town, about the school being "a football stadium with a college attached." The effect of the mass media on people's expectations and behavior, reflected in Lloyd's jig, also remains a relevant theme. Lloyd is funny and sweet and the movie never bogs down. Great fun.

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