Cast & Crew
Alec B. Francis
Harold Horne, an apprentice clerk in a Honolulu shoe store, is ambitious and hopes to rise in John Tanner's organization, but his nervousness at waiting on Mary, a lady customer, causes numerous distractions, including the loss of her dog in the street, resulting in amusing complications with taxi drivers. As social secretary to wealthy Mrs. Tanner, Mary declares her confidence in the enterprising Harold, while he confides to Mr. Carson, a roomer in his boardinghouse, that he will take a correspondence course to become rich and worthy of Mary. Harold crashes a series of society gatherings and boasts of his prowess at polo and other pastimes of the wealthy, but later he makes a general botch of Mrs. Tanner's shoes and stockings at the store, trying to elude Mary's glance. In delivering shoes to an ocean liner, Harold is forced to remain aboard; he discovers Mary is only a secretary. To escape being caught, Harold hides in a mail bag and in a series of maneuvers ends up flying to San Francisco, where he delivers an urgent bid for Tanner, saving Mary her job, and winning himself a promotion as well as a wife.
Alec B. Francis
Sleep 'n' Eat
As in most of his films, Lloyd plays a bespectacled, gung-ho boy-next-door type out to make his fortune and win the girl. This time out, he's an ambitious shoe store clerk who pretends to be a millionaire to impress the girl (Barbara Kent) he thinks is the boss's daughter. She isn't, but in the course of carrying off his masquerade, he stows away aboard a ship headed to Hawaii, ending up in a mail sack that gets transported to the top of a skyscraper.
Using Kent was probably Lloyd's first mistake. Although she had scored as the good girl in Garbo's silent Flesh and the Devil (1926), she had been wooden if beautiful in Welcome Danger. She hadn't improved much by her second (and last) film with Lloyd. Perhaps he was determined to re-capture his magical teamwork with earlier leading ladies Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis and Jobyna Ralston, all of whom had worked with him on several films. The one thing she had in common with them was that she gave up her career in American films for marriage, though she wasn't as fortunate as Davis, who married the boss and remained Mrs. Lloyd until her death in 1969.
Lloyd shot the building-scaling scene just as he had for Safety Last, creating the illusion that he was about to tumble to his death while the actor was really in no danger. Various parts of the building's facade were built on a Los Angeles rooftop, so that he actually was towering above the city although he had only a few feet to fall. In a departure from the earlier film, for long shots, stuntman Harvey Parry filled in for the star, something he had been doing for years. There was little attempt to keep these precautions from the press at the time. Publicity for the film even featured shots of the false facade, though Parry was asked to be discreet about his contribution. As Lloyd's legend grew in later years, however, the myth that he had performed all his own stunts grew with it. In deference to the star, Parry did not claim any credit until after Lloyd's death in 1971.
Duplicating Lloyd's Safety Last stunts with sound seemed like a great idea at the time -- at least until audiences got a look at it. As was often the case with Lloyd's films, he previewed Feet First at a greater length than he intended for the final cut, allowing the audience to show him what gags needed to stay in and what could be cut. As a result, the climbing sequence ran 30 minutes at the first preview, where it died. For audiences just becoming accustomed to sound films, the addition of Lloyd's panting and cries for help made the scene more excruciating than funny, and they stopped laughing quickly. Ultimately, Lloyd cut the sequence to ten minutes, but it only worked in a German theatre, where the manager had the brilliant idea of playing it without sound. The audience's laughter more than filled the silence. For later generations, however, the sequence stands as one of the funniest in Lloyd's oeuvre.
At the time, however, he considered Feet First another disappointment. It made a profit, bringing in $1.5 million on a $650,000 investment, but that marked a decline of $750,000 from Lloyd's first talking film. Like fellow silent clowns Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon, Lloyd was finding the world of talking films far from nurturing. He would make only four more features before retiring from acting, though unlike many of his contemporaries he had invested wisely enough to rank as one of Hollywood's richest stars.
When Lloyd sold Feet First to television in 1953, the film became a victim of changing times in another way. The picture had marked the screen debut of black comic Willie Best, an accomplished stage actor forced to play demeaning roles in Hollywood films. He was initially billed as Sleep 'N' Eat to play up the studio's insulting claim that he actually enjoyed humiliating himself and didn't want money for his work, just three square meals and a warm place to sleep. By 1953, this type of stereotyping was fast falling out of favor. As a result, Lloyd cut almost 20 minutes out of Feet First to eliminate much of its by-then dated racist humor. However, TCM will broadcast the UCLA Film and Television Archive's newly-restored print of the complete 1930 version of Feet First, enabling audiences to see the film in its original form, regardless of its flaws.
Producer: Harold Lloyd
Director: Clyde Bruckman
Screenplay: Felix Adler, Clyde Bruckman, Alfred A. Cohn, John Grey, Lex Neal, Paul Girard Smith
Cinematography: Henry Kohler, Walter Lundin
Principal Cast: Harold Lloyd (Harold Horne), Robert McWade (John Tanner), Lillian Leighton (Mrs. Tanner), Barbara Kent (Barbara), Alec B. Francis (Mr. Carson, old-timer), Noah Beery, Sr. (Shoe Store Bit), Sleep 'N' Eat/Willie Best (Janitor).
by Frank Miller