Continuing from last week, here’s my list of the Ten Best Classic Hollywood Movies I screened during the past year. I realize that this list seems a bit, er, obscure, maybe even esoteric, but in truth, all these films are hugely entertaining and suitable for most everyone.
Here are my top five films.
5. The Kid Brother, 1927, starring Harold Lloyd, and Jobyna Ralston. Writers: John Grey, Ted Wilde, Thomas J. Crizer, Lex Neal, Howard J. Green. Directed by Ted Wilde, J.A. Howe (co-director), Harold Lloyd (uncredited) Lewis Milestone (uncredited).
The great silent comedians were Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd. Chaplin’s character, the Little Tramp, was perhaps the most popular and poignant in all film history. Keaton, the great stone face, was technically the most bold. Even today, film students worship Keaton’s technical innovations. But Lloyd, in his horn rimmed glasses, was the most ordinary of the great comedians. His trademark character, always named Harold, was eager, brash, clever and eternally optimistic. In short, Harold Lloyd was the most American of the legendary triumvirate.
In The Kid Brother, Harold Hickory, the Sheriff’s youngest son, is a weakling who always defers to his hulking big brothers. But Harold must recover stolen money and win the love of Mary Powers, Jobyna Ralston, a performer in a traveling medicine show.
This is a male Cinderella story, with Harold as the household slave.
In the opening scene Harold washes clothes in the butter churn and then using a string, runs the wash through a wringer, and finally attaches the string to a kite which floats in the air as a dryer. It’s a lyrical and effortless way of establishing Harold’s clever character and his low rank in the alpha male family.
The Kid Brother has, to my mind, the most romantic scene ever filmed.
After meeting and spending time with Mary in the woods, she departs, making her way over hill and dale.
Harold is so reluctant to part from her he climbs a tree to keep her in sight. The camera cranes up with Harold as he climbs.
He calls out to her: “What’s your name?”
She calls back: “Mary.”
As she continues along, Harold loses sight of her.
Harold climbs higher so he can follow Mary’s progress. The camera continues craning with him.
“Where do you live?”
“In the medicine tent.”
Mary strolls along.
The camera cranes even higher.
“Goodbye,” cries Harold.
She waves and walks away. Now, she’s just a dot in the landscape.
Harold is way up in the tree, but he’s so enraptured that he loses his balance, falls, bumping into one branch and the next, until he hits the ground. Dazed, he plucks a flower and tears off petals: She loves me, she loves me not.
It’s a breathtaking sequence where movie technique perfectly expresses the inner longings of the main character.
Harold Lloyd is often accused of being cold and mechanical. But in truth, he was a great American romantic, and The Kid Brother might be his greatest achievement.
To read the rest of my article, head on over to Big Hollywood.