Rick’s Journal – MY FILM CAREER
Am I approaching more mature judgment? I find myself having second thoughts about more than one film. I am no longer giving every silent film the benefit of the doubt. I have just reached a revised opinion about Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm which I am almost certain I unreservedly admired during my first viewing (See RICK’S FLICKS 10/16/15).
All this is prelude to expressing my first Harold Lloyd disappointment.
WELCOME DANGER Clyde Bruckman 1929 starring Harold Lloyd
This is my first disappointment in a Harold Lloyd vehicle (except for being embarrassed earlier by some racial humor). According to Walter Kerr in his splendid The Silent Clowns, Lloyd had completed Welcome Danger as a silent, then re-shot it. Kerr suggests that it was completely re-done; but it appears to me that considerable silent footage was saved and that some dialog is post-dubbed, especially the voice of the loyal policeman.
What’s funniest in Welcome Danger are moments which are amusing with no dependence on sound: Bledsoe (Lloyd) interfering with — or assisting — fellow passengers on the train; uniquely pacifying a baby; making someone’s cigarette lighter work. His almost missing the train. His sneaky collection of a pile of stones in the interest of a further embrace from the girl. His finally getting the tent set up only to have it immediately collapse. The funniest scene, for me, appears on the rear platform of the train as Bledsoe, desperate for a final look at the girl, collars a tourist in the man’s own binocular strap.
But then, as police chief, Bledsoe follows a Chinese hood into a Chinese restaurant because he sees a gun protruding from the man’s hip pocket. Bledsoe causes a literal free-for-all as he tries to find the man with the gun. Everyone in the restaurant is in black except our hood. Why Bledsoe can’t remember, as we do, that the hood was wearing white and why he keeps searching men in black remain mysteries. But the unfunny fight goes on forever building to a line of dialog about all Chinese looking alike. The line is hard to take in these days and times — even for this reviewer who willingly has always cut silents a lot of slack as products of their era.
Speaking of which: the actress playing Bledsoe’s girl is truly lovely and very likable; but she delivers every line with that early talkie artificiality which is hard on suspension of disbelief. Lloyd’s voice is fine, and he speaks more naturally than all the other players; but the prissiness which was typically a part of his screen persona is somewhat less attractive with a voice.
TCM shows a handsome print thanks to the UCLA Archive and thanks to the daughter of Harold Lloyd who has so artfully and faithfully preserved for us her great father’s great legacy.
ADDENDUM: Not a film within a film but a photo within a film: Early in the story we see Billie try to take a picture of herself at one of those self-photo coin-operated machines that were common once upon a time. Billie loses her coin. The machine does not deliver a picture. A short time later Bledsoe — the two have not met yet — takes a picture of himself at the same machine. He receives a photo of himself with Billie’s picture superimposed on it. We have not a play within the play nor a film within the film but a picture within the picture. The photograph becomes a significant fantasy for Bledsoe and will help bring him and Billie together.
The quotation from Walter Kerr is from his The Silent Clowns, Knopf, 1975.
NEXT POST Friday October 30
See you at the movies,