Friday 2 February 2007

Number, Please? (1920) Hal Roach

The boy, the girl and the rival: how many Harold Lloyd comedies could be summed up by that cast list? Here, Harold is at the fair trying to impress his regular screen squeeze (and future wife), Mildred Davis, who is as sorrowful as always. His rival has a head start but Harold is a resourceful sort, getting himself in and out of trouble, breaking dolls at the arcade or tying her dog up to the carousel. He finds that in order to go up in a balloon with her, he has to get permission from her mother before his rival, Roy Brooks. As Brooks has headed quickly off in a car, he's forced to use the phone, hence the title.

This is an inventive film, cinematically, whether directed by Hal Roach, as credited, regular Lloyd director Fred Newmeyer, here listed as an assistant, or Lloyd himself who often did much of the work. There's an interesting scene at the hall of mirrors after Lloyd has been stunned by a contestant at the test your weight game, and another camera is mounted on the carousel to follow Lloyd or the dog round and round at speed. There's even a montage screen where we see five different faces of people in different places all at the same time.

The comedy keeps up with it too. There are a number of excellent slapstick routines, not as dangerous as you'd expect from Harold Lloyd but still hilarious. The best has to be his continual attempts to get into a phone booth, only to beaten to the punch every time, but that's only one of many. One routine has him trying to get rid of a stolen purse which of course returns to him every time until the one time he actually needs it. Once again, the timing is as awesome as you'd expect from Harold Lloyd and I was seriously impressed when he ran round a corner and leaped over a man on a moving bicycle. Superb!

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