For Reel

Harold Teen (1934)
April 19, 2012, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Murray Roth

In 1919, a meager comic strip entitled “The Love Life of Harold Teen” made its debut in the Chicago Tribute. The material rose in popularity as a fervent, humorous reflection of the Jazz Age, and eventually “Teen” would be brought to the silver screen on two occasions – first as a silent in 1928 by Mervyn LeRoy, and later as a 1934 talkie from director Murray Roth. The latter stars Hal Le Roy, a gangly tap dancer who fittingly looks as though he’s walked straight out of a cartoon. Even at just over an hour in length, however, there’s barely enough plot to sustain the adaptation, and neither Le Roy nor his co-star, Rochelle Hudson, bring enough to enliven the lame proceedings. The picture is comprised of many vignettes – indeed, it is not unlike reading a series of comic strips. Though there are some admittedly charming moments (an early musical number is the highlight), most of the punch lines feel contrived and are delivered with a self-consciousness that rids of them of their humor. At a dance, a man asks his gal, “Do you like to dance with french heels?” She replies, “Why, I don’t know any!” The joke might be serviceable for a panel in a newspaper, but in delivery everything is all wrong – the mugging of the actors is overbearing, and the humor is drained by the all-too-practiced rhythm and cadence with which they deliver their lines. The effect is quite the contrary of the off-the-cuff feel of the best Marx Brothers pictures. Like an average Sunday strip, Harold Teen is best consumed while distracted, as the paltry humor leaves little impression.

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