Friday, July 26, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Kid Brother (1927)

This year I've been enjoying watching a variety of new-to-me types of movies, from a Japanese drama to George O'Brien "B" Westerns to programmers directed by Lew Landers to the silent films of Harold Lloyd.

Tonight I followed up seeing Lloyd's SAFETY LAST! (1923) and
GIRL SHY (1924) by watching THE KID BROTHER (1927), which proved to be another very special film.

Lloyd plays Harold Hickory, the runt of a family which consists of his father, Sheriff Hickory (Walter James) and two huge, obnoxious brothers (Leo Willis and Olin Francis). Harold keeps house for the family and is constantly dismissed by the rest of the family as inadequate.

Harold's life changes the minute he meets Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), who arrives in Hickoryville with a medicine show. Mary, whose father owned the medicine show but recently passed on, is unhappy and frightened of the leering, oily men who work in the medicine show (Constantine Romanoff and Eddie Boland). Thanks to Mary's encouragement, Harold becomes one determined man when confronting problems; he not only proves to be Mary's knight in shining armor, he saves his father from a crisis.

This is a lovely movie which was at times quite stunningly filmed. There's an unforgettable scene where Harold climbs a tree to see Mary as she walks away into the distance, and as he climbs the tree, the camera rises with him. I actually gasped, for several reasons: surprise at the camera's mobility, admiration of Harold's agility, and with pleasure at the beauty of the moment. Who needs CGI? The real thing, with a camera following a man up a tree and gazing down on the beauty below, is so much better. (Some of the rural scenes were shot here in Orange County, in Placentia.)

This film reunited Lloyd and Ralston, whom I enjoyed so much in GIRL-SHY; they made several other films together, including THE FRESHMAN (1925) which I hope to see later this year. They have a very special chemistry, and Ralston is simply a magical actress. There's a scene when the medicine show stage has burned down and her tears fall on Harold's hand which made me cry, and I teared up again in the film's final seconds.

Ralston is not only a very sensitive actress, she matches Lloyd's comic timing and has some marvelous reactions. That said, the timing and visuals in the film as a whole are quite remarkable. One of my favorite moments was when Harold is confronted by the neighbors' mean dog, and we suddenly see that Harold had planned ahead, producing a cat to distract the dog! The film is packed with such moments which are great fun for the unsuspecting viewer to discover.

As someone who's always found the narrative cards in silent films to be an annoyance, as they interrupt the action and remain on the screen too long after I've read them, I continue to be really pleased that the Lloyd films go for very long stretches without using cards, and when the cards do appear they are often quite witty in and of themselves.

The Lloyd films have done a lot to encourage my interest in silent films, and if all goes well I'm going to combine a couple of this year's new interests by seeing George O'Brien in the "silent to sound" transition-era film NOAH'S ARK (1927) at UCLA tomorrow night.

THE KID BROTHER runs 82 minutes, It was directed by Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe, with IMDb also noting uncredited directing contributions by Lewis Milestone and Harold Lloyd. The cinematographer was Walter Lundin.

THE KID BROTHER is available on DVD from New Line Cinema in The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, Vol. 2. It has a beautiful musical score composed by Carl Davis. Extras include a commentary track.

It's also been released on VHS.

THE KID BROTHER was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies, so perhaps it will turn up there again in the future.

For more on this movie, Will wrote about it last year at Cinematically Insane, and here's a short photo tribute to wonderful Jobyna Ralston.


Blogger Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

The Kid Brother is my favorite Harold Lloyd film. A beautifully crafted comedy.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was wonderful, Ivan! I can certainly see why you like it so much.

Best wishes,

10:15 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Thanks to your posts I've now seen these three Harold Lloyd films. Today my daughter and I watched Kid Brother as I was able to get the DVD from the library. We loved it. At one point my daughter said they don't make good films like this anymore. We got a big kick out of the monkey, especially on the ship. Just laughed out loud. The music that was written to go with this movie was perfect and added so much to it. Now I am looking forward to watching it again with the commentary onl

11:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Irene, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know you read about these films here and then enjoyed them yourself. I'm so glad to know you and your daughter liked THE KID BROTHER! It was a wonderful movie and I especially loved Jobyna Ralston. I'm hoping to watch another of the films she and Harold Lloyd made together in the near future.

Thanks for taking the time to let me know you liked the movie!

Best wishes,

12:02 AM  

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