Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feet First (Clyde Bruckman) ***1/2

Director: Clyde Bruckman

Cast: Harold Lloyd, Barbara Kent, Robert McWade, Lillian Leighton, Noah Young

Background: Lloyd's first talkie was the 1929 film Welcome Danger (changed after originally being shot as a silent). Harold was not happy with it, but audiences flocked to the theaters to hear their favorite star speak for the first time. This would be his first movie filmed with the intent of being a talkie, and harold borrowed inspiration from his most famous film, Safety Last! for the conclusion.

Story: Harold Horne (Lloyd) is a shoe salesman who falls in love with his boss's daughter (Kent) and pretends to be a wealthy tycoon to impress her. He sneaks on to a ship and has to work hard to hide his true nature. When her job is in jeopardy, Harold must take drastic measures to save the day.

Thoughts: Harold Lloyd proves that while his sound films might not have been very successful, he was just as funny in them as he was in the silents. This is a solid comedy that shows Lloyd's natural everyman charm wasn't hurt by the added difficulties of recorded dialogue. One of the best gags in the movie is when hungry stowaway Harold comes up with inventive ways of sharing his potential girlfriend's meal. There's some fun wordplay involving Harold's script for selling shoes and how it eventually causes trouble for him. The film ends with another of Harold's thrill sequences, and while this one essentially copies his famous sequence in Safety Last! (the very best silent film I have seen), he still manages to do enough new things with the concept to make it memorable. Two moments are particularly astonishing: 1) At the top of the building, Harold almost loses his balance on the edge of the building; and 2) a first person perspective shot with the camera hurtling toward the ground. Feet First does lose some points for the unfortunate racial stereotype embodied in the character of an African-American janitor played by Willie Best, but thankfully the role is extremely limited.

Postscript: Harold Lloyd's talkies would not be as popular as his silents, although it is commonly believed that it had more to do with Depression era audiences having difficulties identifying with his character than any difficulties adjusting to the new technology. Lloyd would make a few more films before retiring, only to reappear one more time in the 40s for the Preston Sturges satire The Sins of Harold Diddlebock.

No comments: