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Hollywood Movie Memories » 1920’s comedy

Posts Tagged ‘1920’s comedy’

My Best Girl

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

My Best Girl

Tagline – Have You Seen It Yet?

Starring – Mary Pickford (Maggie Johnson), Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers (Joe Grant), Sunshine Hart (Ma Johnson), Lucien Littlefield (Pa Johnson).

Released – October, 1927

Directed By – Sam Taylor

Produced By – Mary Pickford Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Joe Merrill has got something to prove. Joe is the son of millionaire Robert E. Merrill, who made his fortune with a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, and is determined to prove that he can make it on his own, without his father’s influence. To do this, he changes his name to Joe Grant and takes a job in the stockroom of one of his father’s stores.

Also working in the stockroom is Maggie Johnson. During a particularly exhausting day, Maggie is given a break from the stockroom and asked to cover the sales counter. While working the counter a handsome young man, who is interested in meeting her, inquires about some children’s toys.

As she demonstrates some toys for him, the store manager approaches and hands the young man a time card. The manager, who does not know the young man is the owner’s son, introduces him to Maggie as new employee Joe Grant.

Annoyed by Joe’s deception, Maggie is asked to take him back to the stockroom and get him started. It doesn’t take long for Maggie to determine that this young man is pretty enept. She promises to take “the dumbest stockboy in the world” under her wing and properly train him.

Within a few days, Maggie begins to develop a crush on Joe and the pair begin to flirt with each other. Maggie invites Joe to supper with her family, but cautions him that her family is a bit “off kilter.”

Her elderly dad is a meek postal worker, her mom is an overly dramatic woman who enjoys going to random funeral’s, and her sister is a “flapper” with a boyfriend who always seems to be getting her into trouble. A great deal of commotion at Maggie’s house causes the supper invitation to be posponed.

Joe returns the dinner invitation by asking Maggie to dinner at the Merrill Mansion. He tells her that the company loves to promote a family atmosphere and has an employee to dinner at the mansion regularly. She accepts and suggests that they should, out of respectability, claim that they are Mr. and Mrs. Grant.

This is where the trouble begins. Mrs. Merrill has planned this particular dinner to be a surprise engagement party for Joe and society girl Millicent Rogers. It is Mrs. Merrill’s hope that Joe will marry into the proper level of society. Joe is totally unaware of this plan.

Joe’s family is surprised at the presence of Maggie, and her lack of fromal dinner habits embarass her to the point of hiding under the table. And it is at this very moment that Millicent arrives and kisses Joe.

Maggie’s heart is now broken, and to make matters worse, her sister has again gotten into trouble and may be going to prison. The romantic scandal turns up as a headline in the next day’s newspaper. Joe’s father plans on sending Joe to Hawaii until everything blows over and tries to buy Maggie off with a check for $10,000.

It now seems as though everything has fallen apart for Maggie, but perhaps there is still a way that love will conquer all.

NOTABLE: My Best Girl received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

This motion picture was the last silent film for Mary Pickford. Ten years later, she and co-star Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers would become man and wife.

The Village Voice has declared My Best Girl to be Mary Pickford’s finest romantic comedy.

Lucien Littlefield, who played Maggie’s “old codger” father, was actually three years younger than Pickford.

To prepare for this role, Mary Pickford (incognito) took a job as a sales clerk to get a feel for her character.



Wednesday, June 27th, 2012


Starring – Clara Bow (Bette Lou), Antonio Moreno (Cyrus T. Waltham), William Austin (‘Monty’ Montgomery), Priscilla Bonner (Molly).

Released – February, 1927

Directed By – Clarence G. Badger

Produced By – Famous Players-Lasky Corporation

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – This is a Cinderella type story of a department store working girl who falls for Cyrus Waltham, Jr. the handsome, wealthy manager, and future heir, of the store. It is this film which dubbed Clara Bow the “It Girl”.

Due to the differences in their social class, Betty Lou fears she will never have a chance with her boss Cyrus, who his already linked to blonde socialite Adela Van Noman. However, Cyrus’s friend Monty notices Betty Lou, and this gives her an idea. She will date Monty in an effort to get closer to Cyrus.

Little by little, Betty Lou begins to get the attention of Cyrus. So much so that she gets him to agree to take her on a date to Coney Island which doesn’t end as one might hope.

Betty Lou shares a flat with un-wed mother Molly. Molly is a sickly roommate who fears that the Welfare Department may take her child from her. When the welfare workers come to the flat, Betty Lou pretends to be the mother of the baby. She has a job, pays the rent, and appears to the workers to be able to care for the child.

During this charade, Monty arrives at the flat and also believes Betty Lou to be the mother. He tells Cyrus about the apparent situation. Cyrus, while realizing that he is falling in love with Betty Lou, could not be involved with an un-wed mother. To continue seeing Betty Lou, he offers her an arrangement that does not include marriage.

Betty Lou is humiliated and angry at this offer. She quits her job and vows to forget Cyrus. It is then that she learns of the confusion and misunderstanding regarding just who is the actual mother of the baby as Monty tells her what he had mistakenly told Cyrus.

Furious, she plots her comedic revenge. A masquerade as “Miss Van Cortland” during a party on Cyrus’s yacht should teach him a lesson. Except, a yachting crash, a sink in the drink, and a punch in the face just might cloud the picture.

NOTABLE: In 2001 this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

A box office smash, this film praised Clara Bow as a “joy to behold,” and made the term “It Girl” a cultural lexicon.

A definition of “It” was published in Cosmopolitan in February, 1927. The definition comes from Elinor Glin as, “That quality possessed by some which draws all others with it’s magnetic force. With “it” you win all men if you are a woman and all women in you are a man. “It” can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.”

Cast as a newspaper reporter is a young ex-stuntman named Gary Cooper who’s affair with Clara Bow was a major topic of gossip.



The General

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The General

Tagline – Love, Locomotives, and Laughs

Starring – Buster Keaton (Johnnie Gray), Marion Mack (Annabelle Lee), Glen Cavender (Captain Anderson), Jim Farley (General Thatcher).

Released – February, 1927

Directed By – Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton

Produced By – Buster Keaton Productions, Joseph M. Schenck Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description –┬áJohnnie Gray is a train engineer for the Western & Atlantic Railroad. He is on his way to Marietta, Georgia to visit one of the two loves of his life, Annabelle Lee. His other love…The General, is his locomotive.

During his visit, the American Cival War breaks out and Johnnie immediately tries to enlist in the Confederate Army. Very much to his dismay, he is turned down due to the importance of his current position with the railroad.

As he dejectedly walks away he runs into Annabelle’s father and brother who invite him to join them in the enlistment line. Johnnie can only continue to walk away and, in doing so, cause Annabelle’s father and brother to think that he does not want to enlist. Annabelle is so upset by this mistaken news that she refuses to see Johnnie again until he is wearing the Confederate uniform.

A year into the war Annabelle gets news that her father has been wounded. She sets off to see him on The General, but still refuses to speak with Johnnie. During a rest stop, Union spies capture the train leaving Annabelle, who was still onboard, captive.

Johnnie walks, uses a handcar, and even a bicycle in a frantic journey to Chattanooga to tell Confederate troops of the theft of the train and the capture of Annabelle. Johnnie, along with a detachment of troops, board another train, with Johnnie manning the engine, and are set to give chase.

However, there was one very important thing overlooked. The locomotive Johnnie is manning was never attached to the troop cars and he, unknowingly, sets off alone. The Union troops, believing Johnnie to be accompanied by Confederate support, try anything and everything to stop the pursuing train.

It isn’t long before the Union troops realize that Johnnie is alone in the chase. As they surround him he is forced to leave his locomotive and hide in the woods. After dark, Johnnie comes across the Union camp and overhears their plans for a surprise attack.

He also sees Annabelle who is being guarded by two Union troops. Johnnie is able to knock out both guards and he and Annabelle flee into the forest. The next morning, as the pair sneak out of the forest, they approach a railroad station where the Union troops are preparing for the sneak attack and his beloved locomotive The General is waiting.

Johnnie comes up with a plan to steal back his engine and warn the Confederate troops of the impending sneak attack. Johnnie and Annabelle set his plan in motion. They retake The General and the chase is on. Unfortunately, so is the attack.

Can Johnnie save the day, restore his honor, and win back the heart of Annabelle?

NOTABLE: In 1989, The General was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

At the time of it’s release, The General received mixed reviews and modest box-office results. However, the film is now considered by critics as one of the greatest silent films ever made. For Keaton, the initial cool reception cost him his independence as a film-maker, but he never-the-less considers The General his finest film.

In the scenes where the opposing armies were marching toward each other, Keaton filmed the Union troops marching across the screen. When they were off-screen, the extra’s would change into the Confederate uniform and march the other way.

In 2006, Premiere voted this motion picture as one of “The Fifty Greatest Comedies Of All Time.”

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked The General #18 on their “Greatest Movies Of All Time” list.


The Kid Brother

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 2

Starring – Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Walter James, Leo Willis, Olin Francis

Released – January, 1927

Directed By – Ted Wilde, J. A. Howe

Produced By – Harold Lloyd Corporation

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Harold Hickory is the meek and bashful son of country sheriff Jim Hickory. His family is the most important in, where else, Hickoryville.

All of his life Harold has had to play “third-fiddle” to his much larger, and much stronger, brothers Leo and Olin. So far, Harold has managed to get by using his wits, but now someone new and special has entered the picture. The beautiful Mary Powers.

Mary is part of a medicine show that has come to town and she has captured Harold’s heart. However, Harold’s father has ordered him to shut down the show and make them leave town. His efforts prove nothing but embarrassing as the show’s con-man “Flash Farrell” manages to trick him at every turn.

Harold, as the butt of Flash’s tricks, gives a great deal of pleasure to town bully Hank Hooper. But, when Hank accidentally burns down the medicine show’s tent things start to get serious. Harold’s father arrives and orders the show to get out of town, but soon finds himself suspected of stealing money from the public’s funds that was actually stolen by Flash.

A search party is formed to look for Hank and try to prove Harold’s father’s innocense. Feeling more inferior than ever, Harold does not join the search party and remains in town. There, he accidently comes across Flash and his cohort splitting up the money.

With only his wits as a weapon, can Harold clear the family name and win the girl of his dreams?

NOTABLE: The Kid Brother is considered, by both fans and critics, to be one of silent comedian Harold Lloyd’s most entertaining films, successfully combining comedy, drama, and romance.

This film would be the last of Lloyd’s features to co-star actress Jobyna Ralston. She has worked with Lloyd as a leading lady in five of his films.

Harold Lloyd claimed that The Kid Brother was his favorite film, and in his later years would proudly screen the film in selected theaters and film schools.

Lewis Milestone was the original director of the film, but had to leave after directing only a few scenes due to contract difficulties with Warner Brothers. Ted Wilde took over, but also was forced to leave as a result of health issues. Lloyd ended up directing most of the film, but took no credit.

The Kid Brother is included in the book ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’ edited by Steven Jay Schneider.


For Heavens Sake

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 3

Starring – Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Noah Young, Jim Mason, Paul Weigel,

Released – April, 1926

Directed By – Sam Taylor

Produced By – The Harold Lloyd Corporation

Distributed By – Paramount Productions

Description – Uptown boy J. Harold Manners, a millionaire playboy, finds himself on the poor side of town while searching for a restaurant.

He passes a coffee stand run by an evangelist and accidently causes a fire. To pay for the damage he has caused, Manners gives the man $1,000. The grateful evangelist had been trying to raise enough money for a mission and the $1,000 will do the trick.

Brother Paul opens the mission and names it after his generous donor. However, this does not sit well with Manners as he believes he had nothing to do with its creation and he goes to the mission to protest and demand that his name be removed from the building.

Arriving at the mission, Manners meets the evangelist’s daughter Hope and is immediately smitten. In an effort to win her attention, he promises to help bring the toughs and gangsters into the mission so that they might be converted.

It isn’t long before his attempts pay off and he finds himself being chased by the local toughs right to the mission. With the help of the police a great deal of stolen merchandise is recovered and the mission has plenty of redemption work to do.

Now, Manners efforts turn to getting Hope to marry him. But, it won’t be easy as his high-brow friends kidnap him in an effort to prevent the marriage.

A rescue attempt ensues with Manners new friends, very inebriated, wrecking havoc to reunite the loving couple.

NOTABLE: For Heaven’s Sake was a commercial success and the 12th highest-grossing film of the silent era.

This motion picture was the first to be shown in the Museum of Modern Art’s festival tribute to film comedy.

In the late 1920’s, Harold Lloyd alternated between “gag pictures,” and “character pictures.” This was a “gag picture” sandwiched between 1925’s The Freshman and 1927’s The Kid Brother.

Personal Note: This is one of the great silent comedian Harold Lloyd’s least known films, but may be considered among his best. A simple story with a creative script and some classic Harold Lloyd slapstick.