Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Kid Brother (Ted Wilde and JA Howe) ***1/2

Director: Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe

Cast: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Walter James, Leo Willis, Olin Francis, Constantine Romanoff

Background: Harold Lloyd was one of the most successful silent comedians at the time, having had great success with Safety Last! (which features one of the most memorable stunts in film history), Girl Shy, and The Freshman. Harold brought in eight writers to this one because he wanted it to have more gags than any other film. It is inspired by the 1921 silent classic Tol'able David.

Story: Harold Hickory (Lloyd) is the youngest of three brothers, and his father is the town sheriff. His two older brothers are bigger and tougher, and earn more respect from dad. They also like to pick on poor Harold constantly. One day, a medicine show travels to town, and Harold falls in love with Mary Powers (Ralston), one of the performers. When the medicine show burns down, the proprietor steals money from the sheriff, who is now accused of being a thief. Harold must try to get the money back so he can earn the respect of his father and the love of Mary.

Thoughts: It's interesting that Lloyd wanted this film to have the most gags, because it is actually a pretty plot heavy movie. That doesn't detract from the humor, though. This one might not be quite as funny or memorable as Safety Last!, but it still contains some wonderful comic set pieces. One of my favorites is an extended sequence where Harold is being chased by his brothers. He poses as his father to get away, but they're on to him. However, Harold pulls a clever switcheroo at the last minute and the brothers end up attacking their own father. There are many other great moments, including a cute climbing sequence that brought back memories of Safety Last!. The story is a classic one of an underdog trying to prove his worth, and it's very easy to root for Harold here.

Postscript: The Kid Brother performed well at the box office and is considered one of Lloyd's best films. (It has the 2nd highest score of all of his films on IMDB.) Harold would make only one more silent film (Speedy) before transitioning to the sound era, where he had moderate success in the 30's. He would make a comeback in the late 40's with the Preston Sturges' The Sins of Harold Diddlebock. Jobyna Ralston would have a supporting role in the box office smash Wings (also in 1927), but her career would be over by 1931.

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