An amusing 80-min comedy, no masterpiece to be sure, but very likeable and occasionally funny. Harold Lloyd is the weak kid in a family of two burly brothers and sheriff dad. Medicine Show comes to town while dad is out and Harold was pretending to be sheriff, so he signs their permit, then can’t tell ’em to get out of town because he has fallen for the cute girl in the act. But note: she’s doing the show against her will along with two slimy characters who run off with the town’s treasury – and the sheriff is blamed! Can Harold Lloyd redeem himself by finding the abandoned ship where the criminals are hiding out and return to town triumphantly with the loot and the surviving thief before his dad is lynched? Yes.
Some real nice staging, more elaborately planned shots than the Keaton (see below; the Keaton was also seven years later, which might make a difference, but I think Keaton camera setups were pretty plain, just make sure the action is in the viewfinder), incl. a cool bit where he climbs a tree, higher and higher and the camera follows on a high crane. Movie also had a trained monkey, slingshots, a burning trailer, and laundry drying on a kite string, so you really can’t complain.
Could you bring yourself to hit this man? Could you?!?
Two of Harold’s family members had small parts in Citizen Kane, a medicine show guy was in Sunrise later the same year, and actor Ralph Yearsley who played Harold’s rival died aged 32 a year later. Lloyd was working at a pace of one movie per year, and this came after For Heaven’s Sake and before one of my favorites, Speedy, which would be his last silent film. Speedy also had Ted Wilde as credited director (though IMDB says Lloyd pretty much directed his own films), and Ted died the following year at age 36. IMDB also claims some uncredited direction on this movie by Lewis Milestone, who would soon make All Quiet on the Western Front. The General, Metropolis and October all came out in ’27, pushing the cinematic art ever forward, but so did The Jazz Singer, spelling doom for Keaton and Lloyd (but not for Lang or Eisenstein).
Also watched Neighbors, a 1920 Buster Keaton short which outshone the feature. Buster likes the girl next door, but her family won’t have him. Hilarity ensues. All you really needed for a great Keaton film was a basic premise and thirty brilliant gags – fully-developed plot/characters not required. Terrifically funny movie.
Buster gets into the neighbor’s third-floor window with help from the Flying Escalantes:
Blackface is funny; half-blackface is funnier: