Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… The Freshman (1925)

And now, for one of my final reviews of the year, we have that classic Harold Lloyd silent comedy, The Freshman!

Harold “Speedy” Lamb (Harold Lloyd) is really looking forward to college. He has been learning the various chants for Tate College, as well as learning a dance-type of greeting from a college movie he had seen. Once he arrives at Tate, though, he soon finds himself in trouble. The College Cad (Brooks Benedict), who has a thing for picking on the incoming freshman, senses a golden opportunity with Harold as he pretends to be a friend while making fun of him. The Cad convinces Harold to make a speech to the student body, and afterwards, when Harold offers to treat his new friends to ice cream, the crowd becomes much bigger as the Cad keeps inviting others to come along, earning Harold the nickname “Speedy The Spender.” The Cad suggests that, if he wants to be as popular as the college hero, Chester Trask (James Anderson), he should go out for the football team. The Football Coach (Pat Harmon) doesn’t think he’s good enough for the team, but Chester convinces him to let Harold be the water boy, while they let him think he is part of the team. Harold decides to give a big party for the Fall Frolic, in the hopes of ensuring his popularity. Of course, he has trouble with his suit, as the College Tailor (Joseph Harrington) had barely managed to put it together in time, and the suit ends up coming apart throughout the evening (with the tailor helping try to stitch it back together). However, the Cad tries to force himself on Harold’s girlfriend Peggy (Jobyna Ralston), which results in Harold fighting him off. In anger, the Cad reveals how much of a joke that Harold is to everybody, bursting his bubble. However, still believing himself to be an important member of the football team, Harold looks forward to the big game, where he hopes to prove himself. But, can this water boy manage to help out in the game?

While not his best-known film (which would be Safety Last!), The Freshman would prove to be one of Harold Lloyd’s most financially successful films. Personally, I can VERY easily see why! I’ve seen the movie several times now, and it’s one I like coming back to, as it has many memorable moments! The Fall Frolic party in particular stands out the most, as Harold tries to be a good host, even though he has a big problem: the tailor wasn’t able to finish the tuxedo, which means Harold has to be careful about how he moves! Of course, you know he’ll make his own mistakes, but others will accidentally pull the suit apart, too! Easily a lot of fun there!

And that’s not even going into some of the other good stuff, either! He also has a speech he’s conned into giving to the student body, as well as football practice and the big game as well! And it’s something simple, but I enjoy the special dance/greeting he uses whenever he meets somebody! I admit, I wouldn’t mind being able to learn it (or something similar of my own design, since I should try to be myself and not someone else). Of course, in light of the pandemic, the idea of learning that special handshake is certainly a moot point for the time being, anyway. Still, this movie gives me a lot of laughs, from start to finish, and allows me to think of happier times. Easily a movie I would quite heartily recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Safety Last! (1923) – Harold Lloyd – The Kid Brother (1927)

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Marathon (1919)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 13 minutes, 58 seconds)

Two men fight over the chance to take a girl to see the marathon, with her retired boxer father trying to make his choice known. Very fun short, featuring Harold Lloyd’s older brother Gaylord doing the “mirror gag” routine, and rather hilariously, too! Of course, Harold has fun with some other stunts, including being dragged around by a small dog, as well as his antics fighting with everybody. Only complaint is a minor character, who is very obviously wearing blackface. Still, a short I enjoy returning to every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… An Eastern Westerner (1920)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 27 minutes, 37 seconds)

A young man (Harold) is sent West after getting into trouble by spending all night out at nightclubs. Out west, he runs afoul of the local big shot, who is trying to get the girl (Mildred Davis). Some fun as we see Harold get into trouble first at the nightclub, and then, when he gets out West, he tries (and fails) to look like he belongs. But, he manages to be a hero when he needs to be, and the final chase is fun in between all his stunts and getting the bad guys to turn on each other!

Coming Up Shorts! with… High And Dizzy (1920)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 27 minutes, 15 seconds)

Harold Lloyd plays a doctor with a new practice, who meets and falls for one of his new patients, Mildred (except her father doesn’t want him to treat her for her sleepwalking). When he gets drunk helping a doctor friend save his brew, he finds himself in the hotel Mildred is in, and deals with her sleepwalking on the ledge. A fun short, even if it is somewhat uneven. We first start out with the stuff with Mildred, switch gears and deal with Harold being drunk, before returning to Mildred in time for the finish. Still, the gags are fairly funny, and it’s fun to see Harold out on the building ledge (especially as he quickly sobers up from the experience)!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Safety Last! (1923)

We’re back again, this time with another classic silent comedy featuring Harold Lloyd, the 1923 movie Safety Last!

At the train station in Great Bend, Harold (Harold Lloyd, of course) prepares to leave for the big city. He says goodbye to his mother and his fiancee, Mildred (Mildred Davis), promising to send for her when he’s made his fortune. Fast forward several months, and we find he is living in an apartment with his friend, Limpy Bill (Bill Strother). Instead of saving his money to help pay the bills like he should, Harold keeps spending it on jewelry that he sends to Mildred (along with letters bragging about how well he is doing). In reality, he is just a salesclerk at the De Vore Department Store, where he has to deal with some unruly customers, as well as the stuffy floorwalker Mr. Stubbs (Westcott B. Clarke). One day, after leaving work to meet his friend Bill, Harold runs into an old friend from Great Bend who has become a policeman. After quickly talking with him, Harold meets up with Bill, and, bragging that the police will let him get away with anything, urges Bill to help him play a prank on the policeman. However, the policeman they play a prank on is NOT Harold’s friend, but somebody else entirely! Harold is able to hide quickly before he is spotted, but Bill isn’t that lucky, and has to run away, climbing one of the nearby buildings to get away. The policeman (Noah Young) vows to arrest Bill the next time he sees him. More trouble comes for Harold with a big sale in the department store, with the unruly customers getting him in trouble with Mr. Stubbs. Then Mildred arrives to surprise him, and, boy, is he surprised! He has to find a way to both do his job while also appearing to be in a much higher position in the company. As he is trying to get her to leave, he overhears the store’s manager tell the floorwalker that he would pay a lot of money to somebody who could come up with a gimmick to get more people in the store. Remembering how his buddy climbed up a building, Harold bursts in and suggests an event in which a mystery man would climb the exterior of the department store. The manager likes the idea and decides to run with it. Harold calls Bill to tell him about it, and offers to split the money. However, the policeman they had played a prank on shows up, and it is suggested Harold should climb the first floor while Bill evades the policeman. Except that’s not so easy, as Harold has to keep climbing while the policeman chases Bill!

This movie’s most well-known scene (and possibly Harold Lloyd’s most famous from his entire career) is him climbing up the department store building (particularly when he is hanging onto the broken clock). The whole idea was inspired by Bill Strothers, who did his own “human fly” act of climbing a building and doing other stunts at the top, something that Harold Lloyd saw walking through Los Angeles. He got Bill Strothers under contract at the Hal Roach studio for this film, playing his buddy “Limpy Bill” (and obviously doing his own climbing, as well as doubling for Harold for some shots). I know I enjoy watching this whole scene unfold in the movie every time. Just because of what life is like for me, it’s rare for me to be able to watch an entire movie all in one sitting (outside of when I see it in theatres or watch movies with friends, neither of which is exactly happening now for obvious reasons). Because of that, I can guarantee that, whenever I get to this scene in the movie, I need enough time to stay for the whole climb, because I find it so gripping that I just cannot bring myself to leave until Harold is at the top of the building! The whole scene manages to make you laugh even while keeping you on the edge of your seat!

Of course, the rest of the movie is fun, too! I know I enjoy watching the whole scene where Harold is trying to do his job all while convincing his girlfriend that he’s a big man at the department store. I love the reactions of some of his coworkers, who are rendered speechless as he attempts to “demonstrate” how to do their jobs. Then the follow-up, as he tries to appear to be the general manager when Mildred makes that mistaken assumption. His methods of getting past his co-workers (and the general manager, when he returns to his office) are all hilarious! Easily a lot of fun to see!

Now, I’ll admit, when I was trying to plan when I would post this review, I had no thoughts or plans on connecting it to Halloween (which will be in less than a week). Still, on thinking it over, I can’t help but think the movie is almost appropriate. I mean, we have Harold pretending to be something he isn’t, especially with regards to his girlfriend for the entire movie. He may not be wearing a literal mask, but he’s still wearing one just the same. This idea continues for the climb up the building as well. All the press for the event keeps the identity of the climber a secret, and Harold is forced to step in when the cop looking for his buddy shows up. Harold and his buddy make plans to change outfits on a higher floor to keep up the ruse (except Bill still can’t evade the policeman). And, as for thrills, Harold’s climb up the building certainly does provide them! They may not be the same as dealing with monsters, or being stalked by serial killers (or whatever other types of Halloween movies you can think of), but I think it works well enough! Of course, regardless of what time of year you see this movie, it’s still a great classic, and one I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Harold Lloyd – The Freshman (1925)

And now, for my feature on theatrical shorts, featuring the three shorts included as extras on this release!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Take A Chance (1918)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

After spending his last quarter, the Sport (Harold Lloyd) tries to go on a picnic with a Hired Girl (Bebe Daniels) with unforeseen results! As usual, Harold Lloyd gets in a lot of physical comedy, as he tries to deal with another suitor for Bebe Daniel’s character’s affections. Admittedly, the story goes all over the pace, as an escaped convict changes clothes with him and the guards/policemen start chasing him! Many fun gags here, which certainly make this one a lot of fun!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 50 seconds)

Harold (Harold Lloyd) takes the Girl (Bebe Daniels) to The Bowery Cafe. Many fun gags here, as we start out on the beach with the Girl and her father (played by Bud Jamison), with Harold traveling under the sand like a submarine! Once in the cafe, we also see them dealing with all the tough characters in there, particularly with one ridiculous moment where pickpockets steal from both Harold and the Girl! Even more fun as we see Harold and Bebe doing some fancy dancing! It’s Harold Lloyd, so it’s still worth a few good laughs!

Coming Up Shorts! with… His Royal Slyness (1920)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 46 seconds)

Harold Lloyd plays a book salesman, who resembles the Prince of Thermosa, and is paid to go back in place of the Prince, who is supposed to marry a princess (played by Mildred Davis). Slightly longer short, compared to the other two in this set, but a lot of fun, with some “Prince And The Pauper” vibes going for it (and the prince played by Harold Lloyd’s real older brother!). Of course, throw in a peasant’s revolution that also occurs, plus a princess that disguises herself to go among the common people, and it’s a lot of fun here! Maybe not quite Harold’s best short, but I enjoy seeing this one every now and then!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Speedy (1928)

Now, for some rather timely fun, we’ve got Harold Lloyd’s 1928 silent comedy Speedy!

Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd) is obsessed with baseball. So much so that he keeps getting in trouble at work, including his most recent job as a soda jerk. In spite of being fired from his job, he still decides to take his girlfriend, Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), to the Coney Island amusement park. After a long day of fun (and spending all his money), the two of them catch a ride home on a friend’s moving truck. On the way, Harold proposes marriage, but Jane turns him down. She wants to marry him, but currently she is worried about her grandfather, Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff). He currently owns (and runs) the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City, but a railroad magnate wants the route (although he is unwilling to meet Pop’s and, quite frankly, Harold’s asking price). The next day, Harold gets a job as a taxi driver, although he quickly gets a few tickets from the police. One of his fares turns out to be Yankee player Babe Ruth (as played by himself), who needs to get to the baseball stadium. After the cab ride, he invites Harold in to see the game. While there, Harold overhears the railroad magnate on the phone trying to hire a bunch of thugs to destroy Pop’s trolley (and injure him) the next day. Harold elects to take Pop’s place the next day, and, with the help of the neighborhood, fights them off. That night, though, the trolley is stolen, and, since Pop’s contract with the city requires him to make a run once every twenty-four hours, Harold must rush to find it before time runs out and Pop’s route is worthless!

The movie was shot on location in sites such as the old Penn Station, Yankee Stadium, and Coney Island’s Luna Park. Of course, due to Harold Lloyd’s popularity at the time, they had to hide the camera and secretly film their scenes at Coney Island to avoid attracting attention from adoring fans. Due to the location shooting, the costs were higher on this film than on his previous movie, The Kid Brother, yet the movie still proved to be a big hit. It also turned out to be Harold’s last silent movie, as the advent of sound had begun the year before with the success of The Jazz Singer, and while Harold took on talking pictures, he no longer enjoyed the success he had had with his silent comedies.

Like the other Harold Lloyd silent comedies that I’ve seen (besides The Kid Brother, I have two more reviewed that will be showing up within the year), I really enjoyed Speedy! There are many fun moments here, from the section at Coney Island, to the final last-ditch trolley run, to the fight just before it that is between the thugs and the American Civil War veterans in the neighborhood (and remember, this is set in the 1920s, so these guys aren’t exactly young, here). But, especially at this time of the year, with the baseball season coming to a close, the fun is all the baseball-related antics for most of the movie. Harold’s way of using donuts and pretzels in a display case to show the baseball score for some of his coworkers at the soda fountain is rather clever and amusing. But, obviously, Babe Ruth’s cameo as one of Harold’s cab fares is one of the film’s highlights. With Harold mainly paying attention to his passenger and ignoring the road, you can’t help but laugh while simultaneously sitting on the edge of your seat as he somehow manages to avoid crashing into traffic! While suicide itself is not a laughing matter, you can’t help but chuckle at Babe Ruth’s line of “If I ever want to commit suicide, I’ll call you” at the end of his cab ride. But, again, this is an enjoyable movie, one I don’t mind seeing any time of the year! This year, it’s more fun at this time if only to enjoy the baseball parts without the health risks for the actual players (not to mention seeing footage of Babe Ruth hit a home run from an actual game)! So, yes, I certainly recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Kid Brother (1927) – Harold Lloyd

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bumping Into Broadway (1919)

(Available as an extra on the Speedy (1928) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 25 minutes, 51 seconds)

As a struggling playwright, the Boy (Harold Lloyd) helps pay his neighbor’s rent, instead of his own. Later, he follows her to a speakeasy, and tries to help her when the place is raided by the police. A lot of different stuff happens here, but Harold Lloyd is hilarious in everything! I know I particularly get a kick out of watching him evade the police at the speakeasy! It’s certainly a fun short, and one I don’t mind seeing every now and then!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Kid Brother (1927)

Next up, we have the recent release of the classic 1927 Harold Lloyd silent comedy The Kid Brother!

In the town of Hickoryville lives Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) and his three sons. His sons Leo (Leo Willis) and Olin (Olin Francis) are both big and strong like him. However, his third son, Harold (Harold Lloyd), is the runt of the family. But what Harold lacks in size and brute strength, he makes up for in intelligence, as he finds ways to get his chores done more efficiently. Still, he wishes to be regarded as a man by his father. While his father and brothers are at a town meeting about money they were collecting to build a dam for the town, a traveling medicine show comes to the house. Since he had been messing around with his father’s gun and was wearing his father’s badge, they mistook him for the sheriff and had him sign a permit for them to set up in town. Later, Harold’s father found out and sent him to stop the show. Instead, the two men made fun of him, hanging him up on a bar. The town bully, Hank Hooper (Ralph Yearsley), tries to get in on the act, but in the process sets the wagon on fire. Afterwards, Harold offers Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), who was working with the show, a place to sleep at his home (although she ended up going to a neighbor’s home instead, since she would have otherwise been the only woman in the house). The next day was to be a town celebration, but things turned sour quickly when the money that had been collected for the dam and placed in the sheriff’s hands was discovered stolen. Hank’s father, Sam Hooper (Frank Lanning), accuses the sheriff of stealing the money. Unable to do anything himself, the sheriff sends Leo and Olin to find the men from the medicine show, but won’t let Harold. When his brothers fail to find the men, it is up to Harold to help save his father, but can he do it?

The Kid Brother is considered to be one of Harold Lloyd’s best movies. It was his second-to-last silent film, as the sound era would soon start to creep in with the success of The Jazz Singer later on in 1927. Harold Lloyd put a lot of work into this movie, nearly eight months (more than usual), and it shows. From the location shooting, to the use of an elevator filming Harold as he climbs a tree to keep talking with Jobyna’s Mary, to the various gags all working with the story, to the final fight between Harold and the brutish Sandoni (played by Constantine Romanoff), everything just works and shows the effort put into the movie. Me personally, I enjoy many of the gags, but particularly watching Harold dealing with his brothers (and attempting to show how “brave” he could be in front of Mary) are some of the most memorable laugh-out-loud moments for me. I personally wouldn’t call it his absolute best movie, but I would agree that it ranks up there (admittedly, at this point, I’ve only seen about five of his films, but still)! Easily a movie I would recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. The new restoration looks fantastic for a nearly ninety-year-old movie. Sure, there are some scratches here and there, but, for what they had to work with, I have no complaints! The set also includes two of his shorts (more on those in a moment. The shorts don’t look quite as good as the movie, owing to the fact that many of his early shorts were lost in a fire, and they made use of what elements they could find. Between the movie, these shorts and a few other fun extras, this is a very enjoyable set!

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Freshman (1925) – Harold Lloyd – Speedy (1928)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Over The Fence (1917)

(Available as an extra on the The Kid Brother (1927) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 5 minutes, 4 seconds)

Ginger (Harold Lloyd) finds some baseball tickets, and offers to take his girlfriend (Bebe Daniels) to the game, but one of his co-workers steals the tickets. However, he still gets in as a pitcher for one of the teams, before a fight breaks out. Apparently, Harold Lloyd’s first short as what would become known as his “Glasses” character, after doing many “Lonesome Luke” shorts. A bit of fun here, with a few familiar faces that he would continue to work with. Not one of his best shorts, but it’s still fun to see the character we know and love at its start!

Coming Up Shorts! with… That’s Him (1918)

(Available as an extra on the The Kid Brother (1927) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 11 minutes, 5 seconds)

Harold is set to inherit a lot of money that he has to go collect, but forgets the train tickets. On the way to retrieve them, he is confused for a thief. A bit of fun here, with the line “That’s him” (or “It’s him,” etc.) being used as the police chase Harold. Of course, the real thief is caught and things end happily. Fun short, although the train conductor is obviously wearing blackface (but, it’s a short part). At least, outside of that flaw, this short is good for a few laughs!