1921

Among Those Present (1921, Fred C. Newmeyer)

Newmeyer takes Harold Lloyd to a country house in Among Those Present and sets him loose in front of a bunch of snobs. Lloyd plays a variation of his regular character, but this time with additions. For much of the short, he’s posing as a British lord, which showcases Lloyd’s acting ability.

The short has already established him as the likable Lloyd standard, so seeing him be an English snob is a lot of fun. The persona melts, of course, when he meets Mildred Davis. But Lloyd’s coat check boy proves to be quite an acceptable suitor, regardless of society status.

Among Those Present has three distinct periods, with the second being Lloyd’s impersonating in society and the final one being him on a fox hunt. Things do not go well on the hunt.

The short has many good laughs, but the plot structure and acting really set it apart.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer; written by Hal Roach and Sam Taylor; director of photography, Walter Lundin; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harold Lloyd (O’Reilly, The Boy), Mildred Davis (Miss O’Brien, The Girl), James T. Kelley (Mr. O’Brien, the Father), Aggie Herring (Mrs. O’Brien, the Mother), Vera White (Society Pilot) and William Gillespie (Hard-Boiled Party).


The Devil’s Foot (1921, Maurice Elvey)

To call The Devil’s Foot inept is too complementary. Some of the stupider story elements come from the Conan Doyle story, so one cannot really fault screenwriter William J. Elliott. Instead, the fault lies entirely with director Maurice Elvey.

The short does show how important sound is to a procedural investigation narrative, but Elvey’s incompetence comes to the close-ups. Sherlock Holmes, reasonably well-played by Eille Norwood here, walks around the sets and looks at various objects around the rooms. But Elvey includes to close-ups of the items, so the clues are entirely hidden from the viewer. It sort of kills the interest level.

Also interesting is the lack of British flavor. Foot often looks like it was shot in Los Angeles, on very boring locations.

It does start reasonably well, until the actual investigation starts. Then it’s a continuous stream of disappointments.

Better source material might’ve helped.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Maurice Elvey; screenplay by William J. Elliott, based on a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Germain Burger; released by Stoll Picture Productions.

Starring Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), Hubert Willis (Dr. John Watson), Harvey Braban (Mortimer Tregennis) and Hugh Buckler (Dr. Sterndale).


I Do (1921, Hal Roach)

Where to start with I Do….

There are two big places and one little one. The little one is just suburban paranoia in the twenties, with newlyweds Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis terrified over being robbed. It leads to hijinks. But this subplot is only the last seven minutes, tacked on to the rest.

The rest involves Lloyd passively agreeing to babysit his wife’s brother’s kids. I Do plays as a warning against both marriage and children. Jack Morgan plays the older ward and he’s a destructive little psychopath. Davis, unfortunately, is permissive. A great ending joke would have been her smacking the little monster after she chastised Lloyd for doing it at the beginning.

Sadly, I Do does not have a great ending (or even a good third act).

Worse, the problem’s Lloyd. He’s a clumsy fop–his character ends there.

I Do‘s unambitious and seemingly disinterested with itself.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Hal Roach; written by Roach and Sam Taylor; edited by Charles Bilkey and Harold McCord; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl), Noah Young (The Agitation), Jack Morgan (The Disturbance) and Jack Edwards (The Annoyance).


Never Weaken (1921, Fred C. Newmeyer)

Never Weaken combines two of Lloyd’s favorite features (at least from his shorts of the era)… skyscraper derring do and failed suicide attempts. While the former is definitely thrilling, the latter is unpleasant and, in terms of narrative, rather lazy writing.

The short starts strong, with Lloyd out to drum up business so his girlfriend (Mildred Davis) can keep her job. She’s a doctor’s assistant and Lloyd is constantly devising scams to create new patients. This adventure takes up about half Weaken‘s running time and features a great “villain” in Charles Stevenson’s bewildered police officer.

Then Lloyd discovers Davis embracing another man and the suicide kick gets started. As usual, the misfires are funny, but in questionable taste and utterly pointless. Weaken‘s got a fourth the plot it should.

The skyscraper scenes are amazing, but it’d have been better if Lloyd had just done an urban acrobat picture.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer; written by Hal Roach and Sam Taylor; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Walter Lundin; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl), Roy Brooks (The Other Man), Mark Jones (The Acrobat) and Charles Stevenson (The Police Force).


Manhatta (1921, Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler)

About three quarters of Strand and Sheeler’s shots in Manhatta could just be stills. It’s less about the camera being motionless than about the subjects being motionless. While the subjects are varied, a lot of them are related to the water—whether the tugboats or the ocean liners or the docks, there’s a lot of water in Manhatta. Most of those shots get nothing from having movement in them.

Similarly, the shots of buildings—regardless of how much smoke comes out of chimneys—are essentially static. There’s something to seeing moving images stand in for still ones, but it’s hardly compelling. Almost a hundred years later, Manhatta is a curiosity of artifacts. It’s impossible to imagine how it played to contemporary viewers.

But where it comes alive are the people. Strand and Sheeler have these amazing shots of bustling crowds, sometimes from high vantage points, and Manhatta truly becomes awesome.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.


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