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Monday 23 April 2007

Get Out and Get Under (1920) Hal Roach

Watching Harold Lloyd shorts is almost an education in silent comedy. Just like in A Sailor-Made Man, this two reel short starts with a plot so basic it's detailed on the title card: boy falls in love with girl and things happen. You can see the way it's all thought out. Hey, let's put Harold Lloyd in a studio to get his photo taken. What would be funny? How about a mouse running up his leg while he's trying to hold still. Great. And then he could tell the photographer that he's going to marry this beautiful girl. What if the photographer has another picture to prove that she's going to get married to someone else? And it could be this very morning! Maybe Harold could be too late. Ah but what then? It could all be a dream! And then... and on it goes.

Hal Roach followed this formula in the early days but the comedians weren't funny much of the time and the gags weren't any better. The problem was that he didn't have a Harold Lloyd at the time to make it all look easy. This being 1920 he did have a Harold Lloyd and it just shows up the level of talent he had (or didn't have) in previous years. Here the gags come thick and fast and are mostly tied up with a car that Lloyd (playing The Boy as usual) has almost fully paid for, hence the title which comes from a song of the day about car trouble. The car won't start, won't stop, gets stuck on a train, won't go up a hill, hides in a tent, you name it.

There's also some amateur dramatics subplot about the girl, just in case we forgot about her. She's Mildred Davis, because this is 1920 and the pair of them hadn't got married in real life yet, thus forcing her retirement from film. It feels tacked on though, as if the rest of the story had run away with all the running time and this got thrown back on to tie it all up.

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