Thursday, July 04, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Girl Shy (1924)

This past January I watched my first Harold Lloyd film, SAFETY LAST! (1923), and tonight I followed up with my second Lloyd film, GIRL SHY (1924).

I think I liked GIRL SHY even better, thanks in part to leading lady Jobyna Ralston, who was absolutely charming, very sweet and also a gifted comedienne. The scene where she and Lloyd attempt to hide a forbidden little dog on a train is hilarious.

Lloyd plays Harold Meadows, who serves as an apprentice to his uncle, a tailor. The shy, stuttering Harold dreams of striking it rich thanks to his manuscript on the secrets of making love to various kinds of women. Needless to say, the book was not written from Harold's personal experience!

While traveling to the big city to deliver his manuscript to a publisher, Harold meets a lovely young girl (Ralston) who had to take the train after her car broke down. They bond over hiding her dog and Harold buying her a box of Cracker Jack, then get to know one another better at a subsequent chance meeting.

Harold dreams of marrying the girl, but circumstances bring about their separation and the girl regretfully consents to marry another man (Richard Daniels) -- who turns out to be already married! When Harold learns this news he is off to stop the wedding and save his beloved from bigamy, racing through the streets of L.A. by car, fire truck, trolley, and on horseback. Will there be a happy ending?

This film has it all -- touching romance, numerous funny comedic bits, and a, well, Cracker Jack finale with Lloyd surmounting obstacles galore as he races to the side of his sweetheart. In particular, the scene where he's hanging off a trolley is remarkably well done. The amazing thing about this sequence is that while Lloyd and Co. may have utilized some tricks of the trade, there was no CGI involved in the elaborate stunts; I was holding my breath as the trolley careened through a busy intersection!

After watching the movie I read the chapter on GIRL SHY in John Bengtson's book SILENT VISIONS, which I was inspired to purchase after seeing it in the gift shop at the TCM Classic Film Festival. The book has an amazing collection of photographs and maps showing where key scenes in the film took place; Bengtson also has a website, which includes posts on topics such as how Lloyd filmed the trolley stunts. As someone fascinated by movie locations, I loved the film's many shots of the Greater Los Angeles area in the 1920s.

I was quite taken with Jobyna Ralston from the moment her character is introduced, sitting in her broken-down car ("a good car with bad habits") feeding biscuits to her tiny dog. Jobyna's character is wealthy but she is sweet and unspoiled, and she's extremely grateful when Harold saves her dog from being left behind on the train platform. Ralston has a very expressive face which allows her to do a wonderful job playing comedy opposite Lloyd, and she also easily communicates her emotions without the need for words.

My main issue with silent films has been that I find the interruptions of narrative cards tedious, and I was impressed with GIRL SHY's relative restraint in using these cards, often letting the audience infer what the characters are saying without spelling it all out. Lloyd and Ralston are both such gifted actors that they're able to communicate a great deal to the audience regardless of the fact there's no soundtrack.

I came across an interesting 2004 page about the placement of an historic marker at the site of Jobyna Ralston's Tennessee birthplace. Ralston appeared in several Harold Lloyd films, and I'm looking forward to watching more of her work.

GIRL SHY would be a great film to show someone who doesn't watch silent films, as it's smart, funny, and exciting. The DVD print I watched, put out by New Line Cinema with the cooperation of the Lloyd Estate, was so crisp and clear that some of the scenes almost looked as though they could have been filmed last week, rather than 90 years ago.

The DVD provides a choice of two different soundtracks; I watched it with organ accompaniment.

This film has also had a release on VHS.

GIRL SHY provides a great viewing experience, and I very much recommend it.


Blogger VP81955 said...

Probably my favorite Harold Lloyd movie (which is saying something, since he made so many good ones); the multimodal chase scene alone makes it brilliant, although the film as a whole has so much to offer.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for sharing your impressions of this film! It was a true delight from start to finish.

Best wishes,

8:44 AM  

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