Sunday, January 31, 2010
Harold and Me!
After weekly posts for 8 months, I fell out of the habit. Nothing wrong here, except I have been a Minnesota Vikings football fan for 40 years and they lost the big game again when they had it nearly wrapped up. I will remove this comment in a week, but in case any weekly readers have wondered what happened to me... my spirits have been down. Also been busy on a big project, and busy is always good.
I meant to talk about a hoped-for revival of interest in Buster Keaton. Maybe next time.
One love has always been silent comedy, especially Buster Keaton and watching him with an audience. I first experienced silent comedy with an audience in college at the University of Wisconsin. I recall a few showings of Laurel and Hardy silents with live organ accompaniment, outdoors as well at the student union. There was also a season where they showed Chaplin shorts during lunch in a community room, like every Wednesday or some special day of the week. The most memorable event was a screening of Robert Youngson's "When Comedy Was King" (or else it was "TheGolden Age of Comedy") in a packed classroom one evening. It was for the film history class but word got around that anyone could attend and it would be fun. No one present had seen this stuff before and they really got into it. The highlight was Laurel and Hardy's "Big Business" feud with Jimmy Finlayson -- a fall out of your chair and laugh till it hurts pandemonium. I saw later Robert Youngson compilations in movie theaters like Days of Thrills and Laughter and Four Clowns.
I also saw Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy in a theater when I was still in high school (double-featured with Jack the Giant Killer!) This pre-dates the above U. showing. Which reminds me that Harold came to the U. to test his second compilation "Funny Side of Life." I got to meet him and shake his hand at a reception. He was very thankful for the laughs at the screening and ate up reassurances that we enjoyed the show, which the audience did find hilarious. The IMDB lists "Funny Side" as a 1963 release but I am positive I saw it in college which would be after 1964. I would not have gotten invited to the reception if I was not in college. My guess is Harold made the film earlier but took it around to campuses in 1965.
From IMDB: With the success of his first compilation film, HAROLD LLOYD'S WORLD OF COMEDY (1962), it was only natural that a sequel would soon follow. It is important to remember that for decades these two films were the only way in which to enjoy Harold's classics, as he was adamant that they would not be butchered by television.
We are shown Harold's shipboard confrontation with the villain and a romantic interlude in the woods from THE KID BROTHER (1927). Harold's desperate dash to his own wedding while in charge of a group of drunken bums is shown from FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1926) and his taxi troubles in SPEEDY (1928) are included. As a grand conclusion, we are treated to Harold's THE FRESHMAN (1925) in its entirety. This wonderfully funny look at a determined young fellow's drive to succeed on his college football team is still touchingly poignant. The inclusion of the song ‘There Was a Boy, There Was A Girl' by Ned Washington & Walter Scharf lends a gentle, evocative touch to the movie.
Also present at the reception after the screening was movie pioneer Roy Aitken, one of the producers of "Birth of a Nation," who lived in Wisconsin and was in fact still alive (!) in his upper 90's.
From Wikipedia: "Triangle Film Corporation (a.k.a. Triangle Motion Picture Company) was a major American motion-picture studio, founded in the summer of 1915 in Culver City, California, and envisioned as a prestige studio based on the producing abilities of filmmakers D. W. Griffith, Thomas Ince and Mack Sennett. It was founded by Harry and Roy Aitken, two brothers from the Wisconsin farmlands who pioneered the studio system of Hollywood's Golden Age; Harry was also DW Griffith's partner at Reliance-Majestic Studios, who had also been fired by the Mutual Film Corporation as a result the aftermath of The Birth of a Nation's unexpected success that year, as the film also lead to riots in major northern cities due to its racial content."
I heard Harold say to Roy: "Mr. Aitken, I used to work for you when I first got into pictures, but I never got to meet you. This is a real pleasure for me." I left with the impression that Harold Lloyd was a humble and gracious man.
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