Turner Classic Movies programs Harold Lloyd tribute.
May 25, 2002 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Turner Classic Movies programs Harold Lloyd tribute. I've seen stills from "Safety Last" for years, but have never been able to track down the movie. Is it as good as all the critics say? I'm looking forward to finding out. What other old movies have you been wanting to see for years? (I keep meaning to get around to renting "The Bank Dick.") Along the same lines, what do you wish would be available on VHS/DVD?
posted by Vidiot (30 comments total)
This CNN article gives additional insight on Lloyd.
posted by LinusMines at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2002

'Rififfi' has been put on DvD. "Bank Dick" is a must see, the car chase scence is great, like old key stone kops but better, more stunts.
posted by clavdivs at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2002

Thanks for the heads-up... ::: heads to Tivo :::
posted by rushmc at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2002

I recently caught Lloyd's racist but nonetheless impressive "Haunted Spooks" - I can only think of a few other folks who match him as a physical comedian. Re: movies I'm waiting for on VHS/DVD, I'd
kill for a chance to see Satyajit Ray's two children's detective films, "Sonar Kella" and "Joi Baba Felunath".
posted by ryanshepard at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2002

I would say that you should take a look at some Chaplin; he's really the progentitor of modern comedy, and invented pathos - the mixture of drama and comedy that is the absolute staple of any film not starring Rob Snieder or Anthony Hopkins. "City Lights" is a great start, or maybe "The Kid", if you don't mind a more primal version of his vision.

Both have been available on DVD sporadically; but not at this point in time. One film that NEEDS a solid DVD release is a fine copy of "Metropolis", a discussion we had some time back; also on a must-see list for me. Fortunately, I still have my laserdisc copy.
posted by Perigee at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2002

Rush -- I have a Tivo wishlist that automatically tapes all "silent" & "movie" & "comedy" on AMC. They tend to show them at 5 in the morning, for some reason. Thanks to the wishlist, I've managed to catch a bunch of Chaplin and Keaton movies I might otherwise have missed.
posted by crunchland at 3:12 PM on May 25, 2002

Harold Lloyd is all over the place on e-bay. I got the complete, 7 vol. edition of his silent shorts. He admittedly does not have the emotional range of a Chaplin or Keaton, but he is the most joyously physical of the three. Here's an interesting Lloyd story: He was doing a photo shoot to promote one of his silents, and an assistant handed him a prop bomb, which had a lit fuse. Unfortunately, the "bomb" contained real explosives! It went off, and blew several of Lloyd's fingers to kingdom come. He had a terrible recovery period, but miraculously resumed his career, and went on to make his best films (like "Safety Last") thereafter. However, a certain light goes out of his eyes after the accident. The freshness flees his handsome features. He retired rather early, took up bowling and the Kiwanis, and actually became the square sort of figure he appeared to be on screen.
posted by Faze at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2002

Harold Lloyd. He's no Harold Zoid!
posted by mark13 at 3:28 PM on May 25, 2002

By the way, if anyone rents "The Bank Dick" or anything else starring W.C. Fields, take a deep breath, and curb your impatience. Fields' comedies develop slo-o-o-owy out of his character. They also use the comedic device of stretching a piece of business to the point where its gone on so long, that you are forced to laugh at the very length of time they've been holding that single shot. Not necessarily to the modern taste.
posted by Faze at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2002

Should there be a "use it or lose it" clause in copyright law, so if content like these movies isn't even modestly marketed for a given number of years it becomes public domain?
A similar law exists for mining claims, and has worked since the 19th Century. Either use the resource or give someone else a chance.
A law like this would also stop self-censorship of non-P.C. works that companies refuse to release, like Disney's "Song of the South."
Copyright law was originally designed to promote content, not to supress it.
posted by kablam at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2002

Here, here, kablam. I'm not sure if it makes legal sense, but if it pries "Song of the South" out of the vaults, I'm all for it.
posted by Faze at 3:58 PM on May 25, 2002

kablam - Should there be a "use it or lose it" clause in copyright law, so if content like these movies isn't even modestly marketed for a given number of years it becomes public domain?

No, they should simply revert to the copyright terms laid out in the US Constitution: 14 years, with the one-time option to renew for another 14 years.

If your interested in the history of copyright law, take a look at my detailed firebreathing rant on just that topic.

Did you know that copyright terms have expanded every time major corporate copyrights approached expiration so essentially no materials produced since World War I have entered the public domain? It's all covered in the link.
posted by NortonDC at 4:07 PM on May 25, 2002

I agree, Perigee. I picked up a DVD of "Metropolis" for about $7, but the transfer isn't very good. I'd love it if Criterion or some other quality company would release a restored version with lots of extras.

I'm just still reeling from my surprise of last week, when I found a new Chinese (!) DVD of the Hepburn-Tracy movie "Desk Set" at the used video store. Much better than my crummy, half-worn-out, third-generation VHS copy.
posted by Vidiot at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2002

There are no copyright terms laid out in the Constitution.
posted by kindall at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2002

Nothing like mischaracterizing one's own writing to boost the old ego...

Copyright Act of 1790 established the original terms I described. It was one of the earliest laws passed by the new government, coming right on the heels of the ratification of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
posted by NortonDC at 5:01 PM on May 25, 2002

(I'm trying to figure out how Chaplin invented pathos, when the Greeks had a word for it. It's right on the tip of my tongue, too.)
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on May 25, 2002

You may be right, dhartung - but my admittedly sketchy understanding of the greek dramatic arts was a clear delineation between comedy and tragedy. If you can think of an earlier work which combined the two, I would like to hear it.
posted by Perigee at 5:32 PM on May 25, 2002

The Divorce of Madame X with Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier...some of the most fabulous lines of all time...if you like that sort of thing. :) One of my faves is: "Break with her, anyone woman who would buy pajamas such as those, is NOT a good woman...break with her." I guess you have to see it...but it's quite amusing. Honestly.

I've not been able to find the original Auntie Mame either...with Ms. Russell, not the Lucille Ball travesty. Many of my old Kate Hepburn movies, even when purchased retail are not much better than the recorded tapes, I'd love to see remastered Hepburn comedies.
posted by dejah420 at 5:46 PM on May 25, 2002

Perigree: my admittedly sketchy understanding of the greek dramatic arts was a clear delineation between comedy and tragedy. If you can think of an earlier work which combined the two, I would like to hear it.

Hamlet comes to mind, not to mention various other works of the Elizabethan period.
posted by bingo at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2002

Rosencrantz and Gilderstern were inept in their tasks but not in intent; and Polonious was intended to be pompous to a point of amusement, but not really belly-laughs. Hamlet was a tragedy; there was no real mix of comedy and tragedy there.

I'm serious in intent though; my understanding - coming from my old studies in film, and Chaplin in particular - was that he was the first to really mix the two disparate genres. And I wasn't being crass in asking. Seriously - if anyone can think of an earlier example I'd truely like to know it.
posted by Perigee at 6:51 PM on May 25, 2002

Falstaff in Henry V.
posted by NortonDC at 7:15 PM on May 25, 2002

speaking of Rosencrantz and Gilderstern, i wish they'd re-release Rosencrantz and Gilderstern Are Dead. it's a travesty that movie is out of print.
posted by boltman at 11:22 PM on May 25, 2002

Does anyone remember the PBS show of Harold Lloyd about twenty something years ago? I think it was half hour segments of Lloyd movies, with a little descriptive commentary. Used to show every week at like "Hitchiker's Guide" times, Saturday at 10:30 or Sunday at 10PM, something like that. Ran for a couple of years, I think.

As soon as I saw his name in this post I had the theme song stuck in my head.

"Hooray for Harold Lloyd......"
posted by dglynn at 11:49 PM on May 25, 2002

There's also Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet. If you go outside dramatic works, there's Don Quixote and The Canterbury Tales, just to grab some obvious examples. And then if you go outside western culture, there's Kabuki theater, among other things.
posted by bingo at 12:12 AM on May 26, 2002

Perigee, I think you're being overly categorical. Certainly the Elizabethan era was the maturation of the modern era of drama and though it's genre-bound in certain ways, there's no Chinese wall between comedy and tragedy. See especially Shakespeare's so-called 'problem comedies', e.g. Troilus and Cressida (note, not all critics classify it as one), leading into the Restoration genre of the sentimental comedy, which led eventually to naturalism and thus the modern novel. Consider Dickens, for example. Consider the commedia dell'arte, which leads into clowning, which is where Chaplin's career began in vaudeville. His tramp character is an outgrowth of the Auguste type of clown which evolved into the tramp/hobo type of which Chaplin is a consummate example.

I don't want to minimize Chaplin's achievements, but suggesting he invented the mixing of comedy and pathos is a huge over-reach. His contributions were largely evolutionary, and notable largely because film was new.
posted by dhartung at 4:48 AM on May 26, 2002

"A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring. There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking deeply sobers us again."

Thanks for the education, as usual, folks. One of the problems with a deeply sawtoothed education is that one tends to take the word of 'experts' on one subject as gospel across all boundries. What I read jelled with what little I knew on other subjects, so I plugged it in as word of law.

Although I'm not sure I'd include Canterbury Tales (since they were mostly set as independent stories tied together by a common theme), it certainly looks like I have to find some time to dig out that huge tome in the bookcase and brush up on my Shakespeare.

Now THIS is the way I like my metafilter served up.
posted by Perigee at 6:23 AM on May 26, 2002

True story: around 15 years ago I went to a Harold Lloyd double feature at the old St. Mark's Theatre in NY. Laurie Anderson was sitting in the row in front of me and she didn't laugh once.

Too cool for comedy.
posted by elgoose at 8:09 AM on May 26, 2002

There's comedy and tragedy together even in some individual Canterbury tales. Also see a lot of middle-ages based stuff like Morte D'Artur. There's also comedy in The Odyssey. Of course, the Odyssey isn't really a tragedy, but then, Aristotle's "Aesthetics," which is the source of our ideas, at least academically, about how dramatic tragedy works, really lays out a different idea of tragedy than the one we have now. A tragedy was a serious story with an unhappy ending...the idea that you might have a serious story with what we'd call an upbeat ending really wasn't a part of the model. And the stuff he wrote on comedy is all lost, but what he said about it probably didn't have much connection to the ha-ha funny comedy we have now, at least in most movies. People's whole concept of the way life works was different. Tragedy was about someone violating the laws of the gods or the furies, often accidentally, and meeting their well-deserved (to the audience) fate, whereas our modern idea of tragedy has more to do with a "fall from grace" situation, in which someone has the chance to do the right thing, but doesn't, and suffers the consequences. Hamlet was a departure from the Greek idea of tragedy if only in that the main character was the agent of justice and not its victim, and the fact that the plot is essentially about his hesitation to exact that justice implies a universe in which that sort of thing is up to humans to begin with, which is really not even in line with the basic assumptions Aristotle and Aeschylus (sp?) were making. I'm not saying Hamlet was the first incidence of this by any means, though.

And I haven't seen all the Chaplain films, but City Lights, as I remember, revolved around his staple "bum" character; the tragedy he invokes through our sympathy for him is really based on the relatively modern (and definitely way, way post-Aristotelian) idea that there are plenty of good people out there who aren't getting the life they deserve. The whole thing is really so far removed from the ancient comedy/tragedy split that the terms should probably be different; Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (which I'm not endorsing) would actually be much closer to what you're talking about, although the comedy in that respect is almost certainly far removed from the ancient Greek idea of comedy. Besides, since neither Aristotle's essay on comedy, meant to accompany his essay on tragedy, has not survived, any attempt to even understand what an appropriate crossover would be is pretty speculative.
posted by bingo at 8:28 AM on May 26, 2002

Regarding Greek comedy; Aristophanes, whom many consider the greatest comedy writer of all time, painted comedy is fairly broad strokes. Lysistrata is one of the funniest plays I've ever read. (Of course, since the Greeks didn't allow women to perform on the stage, imagining it being done by an all male cast makes it even funnier. :)

It's a fast read if you've got some time, and well worth the effort.
posted by dejah420 at 1:07 PM on May 26, 2002

Alright, ya gotta help me out here: which was the Greek play where they settled a border dispute by mapping the new border on the naked body of an attractive woman?

Are you telling me that was done with a male actor?
posted by NortonDC at 3:49 PM on May 26, 2002

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