Cast & Crew
In this silent film, a clueless married couple has to care for two precocious children for a night.
The screen collaboration between Lloyd and Davis would soon result in marriage (they were wed two years later in 1923) but they first started working together three years earlier, in 1919, after Lloyd found himself without a leading lady. Longtime screen mate Bebe Daniels had been whisked away to features by Cecil B. De Mille. But Lloyd's friend and director Hal Roach had a replacement in mind. He'd seen Mildred Davis in the 1916 comedy Marriage a la Carte, co-starring Bryant Washburn, and thought she'd make Lloyd a good partner. And when the director screened the film for Lloyd, the star agreed. Davis was exactly what they needed, a petite blonde whose looks would stand in sharp contrast to Daniels' dark beauty. Bebe Daniels' last Lloyd film was Captain Kidd's Kids (1919). Davis joined Lloyd for the first time in From Hand to Mouth (1919).
I Do would be the duo's tenth pairing. The film was originally slated to be a three reel picture, until it failed to arouse much enthusiasm from preview audiences. The trouble, it seemed, came down to the first reel - which created a very different prologue to the film from the final two-reel opening. In the original first reel, Lloyd's character first meets Davis' character's parents, who take to him immediately and secretly plot the kids' elopement. But, as Lloyd recalls, "it was funny, but it laid an egg at the first preview. So we junked the whole reel [and] started from reel two." And so, I Do opens with the couple already married, and the set up condensed into a short introduction.
Lloyd relied heavily on previewing his films. In fact it was D.W. Griffith who appears to have actually been first to preview a picture with The Birth of A Nation (1915). But Lloyd was definitely a pioneer in the preview process and in his reliance on audience reactions to shape a film. He also knew from the start of a film that changes would be made based on previews. The team would set to do "as well as [they] could, but without going overboard." As Lloyd put it, they knew they were going "to let the audience be the final judge."
And apparently, in the case of I Do, the audience did know best. The film finally came together after cutting the first reel. And Lloyd would remember I Do as "one of [his] most successful two-reelers."
Producer/Director: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Hal Roach, Sam Taylor
Cast: Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (Wife).
by Stephanie Thames
Slapstick Symposium DVD Series - Kino's Slapstick Symposium Series - DVDs Spotlight Silent Era Comics
Even if your previous experience with silent comedies is maybe only a Chaplin short or two they won't feel like an alien form for the simple reason that so much of the form, style and content fed into animated shorts. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry and a host of others are in some sense just silent comedians distilled and decanted into more compact and colorful shorts. There's the same one-conflict setup, the same string-of-gags structure, the same parodies of pop culture, a similar use of recurring icons (garden rakes that smack faces, smelly cheese, plugged waterhoses, falling anvils). Even much of the body language and facial expressions of silent comics survived in the blatantly physical humor of cartoons. (Not to mention that both silent comics and cartoon characters inhabit worlds where being shot produces only mild stings.)
The most popular comedian of his day is featured in The Harold Lloyd Collection. His long-term reputation hasn't fared as well as Chaplin and Keaton, at least partly because he kept rights to his work tightly under control but also because the films haven't fit critical trends as well. The Lloyd disc collects the feature Grandma's Boy (1922) along with seven shorts with titles such as Are Crooks Dishonest? (1918), His Royal Slyness (1920) and Bumping into Broadway (1919). All show Lloyd's well-meaning, bespectacled Everyman as he copes with a variety of events or obstacles. In Just Neighbors (1919) a peaceful friendship with the couple next door escalates to near-chaos through events involving dogs, chickens, waterhoses and wayward children. I Do (1921) has him coping with bratty children while trying to hide bootleg liquor (!). The latter is also interesting on a formal level for the key role sound plays in the story though of course it couldn't be presented directly in a silent film. So much of the humor comes from Lloyd's reactions, often entirely reasonable that create unreasonable results. (Many more of Lloyd's films are expected to appear on DVD soon in authorized and remastered transfers.)
The Charley Chase Collection shows another popular comedian whose name isn't as familiar today, though from the evidence here it's hard to imagine the reasons. His debonair appearance was offset by a willingness to act against it such as, for instance, in Crazy Like a Fox playing a rich boy trying to get out of an arranged marriage by pretending to be bonkers. That's one of six shorts on this disc, all directed by Oscar®-winner Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth, Duck Soup). In some shorts from 1926 you can see McCarey somewhat bluntly filming what almost looks like a vaudeville skit (Mum's the Word) but then another from that same year (Long Fliv the King) shows an entirely cinematic grasp. This last one in particular is a minor masterpiece. Through a convoluted but quickly paced series of events Chase ends up as the king of some tiny European country like you might find in an operetta where the second-in-command would rather be king himself. What might be routine gags are constantly presented in fresh ways. A duel, for instance, where the second-in-command quickly dispatches three opponents works because it's played out entirely with the camera on Chase and his valet's face. Watch for another hilarious gag with a sword that done bluntly (but let's not spoil it) would be barely amusing but is masterfully timed in such a way to mislead audience expectations. Chase's valet in this film is played by the prolific Max Davidson who has a couple of mild but still unfortunate jabs at supposed Jewish greed but otherwise nearly steals the film from Chase.
Thanks to Stan Laurel's partnership with Oliver Hardy he's stayed a familiar name over the years. But he had quite a career before that pairing and you can sample it on The Stan Laurel Collection, a two-disc set with 17 solo shorts. This includes parodies of familiar genres (Westerns, detective stories, a Russian army "epic") as well as the usual conflict 'n struggle shorts. Some like Roughest Africa (1923) have a fairly tossed-together feel, looking like it was created from script to editing in one day on the backlot. The same year's Oranges and Lemons is a more familiar example of physical slapstick as Laurel negotiates citrus-processing machinery, ladders and overly enthusiastic employees. It also shows a surprising amount of playing to the audience, possibly due to Laurel's long music hall experience. In one instance, he faces "out" to the audience while doing a little dance that comes across less as breaking the fourth wall than just an eruption of childish glee that's a bit unsettling to witness in a grown man. That's as good an example as any of why the Laurel disc is the weakest of the three. Unlike the other two comics in the series, Laurel's persona hasn't aged well. Lloyd and Chase's characters relied on cleverness and resolution but Laurel's too often seem just mean-spirited when they're not just blanks. Worse, Laurel himself doesn't come across as particularly funny, either conceptually or in practice. There are decent moments in the Laurel collection but not enough to justify two discs and rarely anything as inventive or imaginative as the other two Slapstick Symposium collections.
For more information about Slapstick Symposium collections, visit Kino International.
by Lang Thompson