"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

March 23, 2012

"Girl Shy" (1924) by Harold Lloyd

Girl Shy (1924) is my favorite Harold Lloyd film. Strangely enough, this wonderful romantic comedy is very little known. Except among other film makers, because both Ben Hur (1925) and The Graduate (1973) borrowed from Lloyd (the chase at the end of Girl Shy).

Harold Lloyd is one of the three great comedians of the Silent Era in the U.S., alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Between 1914 and 1947 he made nearly 200 comedy films. He is best known for his "glasses character", a resourceful go-getter in tune with 1920s America.

Lloyd performed all his stunts himself and his films always contain extended chase scenes or daredevil physical feats. The one for which he is best remembered today, is the one where he is dangling from the hands of a clock high on a skyscraper in Safety Last! (1923).

In Girl Shy, Harold Lloyd plays a tailor's apprentice who is always so shy when in the company of women that he starts stuttering (yes, in this silent film you can see him stutter!). His boss each time bows on a whistle to pull him out of it.

The  many female customers in the shop where Harold works bring him in the greatest confusion. One young lady even asks him to mend a hole in her stocking while she continues wearing it, which he does with averted eyes so that his needle pricks in her leg.

But this "girl shy" young men also has another, unexpected side: in his free evenings he has written a handbook about how to handle various types of women, such as "the vampire" and the "flapper girl." A manual for lovers, so to speak, written by someone who has never yet made love...

But that is about to change. On the train into town, going to bring his manuscript to a publisher, Lloyd meets Mary (Jobyna Ralston), a rich girl whose car has broken down. She has a small Pekinese with her, but dogs are forbidden aboard trains. Lloyd helps her hide the animal from the conductor and he even picks it up with a walking stick after it has fallen unto the tracks. He earns Mary's eternal gratitude. The two sit talking so intensely about Lloyd's lover 's manual project, that they don't even notice the train has arrived at the terminal. (Lloyd still stutters, but the train whistle helps him out!).

They fall in love but Mary already has a suitor, Ronald DeVore (Carlton Griffin), and a very persistent one who doesn't take no for an answer. Due to a misunderstanding with Lloyd, she finally accepts the obnoxious DeVore, but luckily Lloyd discovers that the man is in fact a bigamist.

At that moment, the wedding ceremony is already starting, so Lloyd races to the rescue in a daredevil ride across Los Angeles to prevent the ceremony from taking place. All the time he has to change vehicles, from horses to a trolley to a police motor cycle to a fire truck... This is the first and also the best race I know on film, it is really hair-raising!

Harold bursts in just as the minister is about to conclude the ceremony - but he stutters again and is unable to explain anything. So he just carries off Mary. When they are finally together, he wants to propose to her. A passing mail-carrier's whistle helps him out of his stutter, and she accepts.