(director: Clyde Bruckman; screenwriters: Vincent Lawrence/Harold Lloyd/based on a story by Agnes Christine Johnston, Felix Adler and John Grey; cinematographer: Walter Lundin; editor: Bernard Burton; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Harold Lloyd (Harold Hall), Constance Cummings (Mary Sears), Kenneth Thomson (Vance), Sydney Jarvis (The Director), Eddie Fetherston (Bill, the Assistant Director), Robert McWade (Wesley Kitterman, the Producer), Louise Closser Hale (Mrs. Kitterman), Spencer Charters (J.L. O’Brien), Harold Goodwin (Miller), Mary Doran (Margie), DeWitt Jennings (Mr. Hall), Lucy Beaumont (Mrs. Hall); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Lloyd; Paramount; 1932)
“Silent comedy star Harold Lloyd’s best talkie.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is viewed as silent comedy star Harold Lloyd’s best talkie, which is not saying much since his six other talkies weren’t very good. It does offer a few funny sight gags (though most are stale) and some of his familiar daredevil stunts, and has the outstanding sequence with a magician’s coat mistakenly worn by Lloyd while dancing at an elite party in a Hollywood hotel and causing all sorts of embarrassment at what pops out of the coat. Nevertheless the comedian’s once popular slapstick style no longer flies, as his antics from the silent days are suddenly obsolete. The talkie film is directed by Clyde Bruckman (“Welcome Danger”/”Everything’s Rosie”/”Feet First”), the talented writer of many Buster Keaton films, as if it were a silent. Bruckman had a bad drinking problem and when he was unable to work, Lloyd directed (letting Bruckman receive solo credit). Eventually Bruckman’s drinking problems made him unemployable and in 1955 he shot himself with Buster Keaton’s pistol.
Harold Hall (Harold Lloyd) is obsessed with being in the movies, and the small-town boy from Littletown, Kansas, mistakenly sends a handsome man’s photo instead of his own to Planet Studios in Hollywood and is offered a screen test. In Hollywood, Harold gets into trouble on the set playing an extra by being a bumbler. The accident prone Harold then has an unfortunate run-in with Planet Films studio executive L. J. O’Brien (Spencer Charters), the one who arranged for his screen test. The remainder of the film has a string of fumbling attempts by Harold to break into the movie industry. For his romantic interest, Harold meets the beautiful actress Mary Sears (Constance Cummings), who is a blonde in real life but on the set plays a Spanish hottie brunette. Her maternal instincts go out to Harold when she observes he’s such a harmless goofy fool, and she keeps him around to ward off her possessive, drunken leaden man, Vance (Kenneth Thomson), and his unwanted affections. In the end, Harold, even though a bad actor who has upset everyone on the set, unexpectedly triumphant after he manages to get on the set by accident during a shooting sequence. While a scene on a boat is being shot, Harold gets into a real fist-fight with the film-within-a-film’s hero, Vance, and the big boss of the studio, Mr. Kitterman (Robert McWade), thinks it’s part of the movie and doesn’t know it’s for real. He finds it so hilarious that he signs Harold to a contract.
Though Lloyd was 40 at the time, he unrealistically plays someone boyish leaving his parents’ home for the first time and goes through the machinations of his all-American boy characterization. There were a few funny slapstick bits and it makes for good nostalgia to look at how an old Hollywood studio operated, but overall the film was more grating than funny.
The film was a box-office disaster.
REVIEWED ON 3/24/2008 GRADE: C+