Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Harold Lloyd returns!

When Charlie Chaplin got a day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars last August, I mentioned that I thought Harold Lloyd deserved more recognition. Well, this year, he gets a day; on Wednesday, August 5. As TCM need to fill 24 hours of programming, they're showing a mix of Lloyd's most famous work, as well as some of his lesser stuff. The more famous stuff was overlooked the last time there was a Lloyd tribute, but tomorrow, you can see Lloyd in Safety Last! at 10:30 AM ET, and The Freshman at 3:45 PM.

However, I'd like to recommend something a little less well known this time around: A Sailor-Made Man, airing at 7:30 AM. Here, Lloyd's character is "The Boy", although in reality he's an adult playboy. He's got the money to live independently, but he's fallen in love with The Girl (Mildred Davis), and The Girl's father doesn't like the fact that our hero doesn't have any real-life experience. Work in the real world, and maybe I'll let you marry my daughter. So, The Boy gets the bright idea to join the US Navy. Needless to say, Lloyd is one of the most incompetent sailors you'll ever meet -- and once you've enlisted, you have to serve out that enlistment, which effectively means that Lloyd is stuck as a sailor for years to come, seemingly with no hope of getting The Girl.

Until the ship docks in India, that is. As luck would have it, The Girl and her father are on their vacation yahct, and have docked in the same port as Lloyd's navy ship. Lloyd tries to impress his beloved, but in so doing, gets himself in trouble with the local maharajah. Is this the end of our hero? Will he ever get The Girl? Well, since this is a comedy, you have to assume that the answers are "No" and "Yes" respectively, but as with all of these silent comedies, the fun is in seeing how they get to the destination you know they're going to reach. And like all Lloyd comedies, this one is filled with a lot of fun sight gags, and plucky Harold Lloyd trying to save the day.

A Sailor-Made Man is generally considered to be Lloyd's first feature film. Before this, Lloyd had been producing two-reelers; for A Sailor-Made Man, he produced about 50 minutes of material, with the intention of cutting it down to a two-reeler. When the studio showed the 50 minutes of film to preview audiences, however, they enjoyed everything, and the producers were loathe to cut anything out, with the result that they released a short (by today's standards) feature film, running about 47 minutes.

A Sailor-Made Man has been released to DVD, as has most of Lloyd's work. But, it only seems to be currently available as part of a big box set.

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