For Reel

Girl Shy (1924)
May 1, 2011, 7:24 pm
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Director(s): Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor

A masterful romance from Harold Lloyd – today, arguably the least regarded of the three major silent comedy stars – Girl Shy contains a final heroic gesture that has become a staple of the romantic comedy genre. Additionally, it demonstrates just what an action star Lloyd was. Whereas Keaton often participated in intense sequences, most of his grand escapes were accomplished without his knowing of it. Chaplin, on the other hand, didn’t often have these types of set pieces, however in a sequence such as the boxing match of City Lights, he surprisingly uses his intellect to outsmart his opponent. Lloyd, on the other hand, is perhaps more akin to Fairbanks than either of them in the second half of this movie – jumping to and from trolly cars, maneuvering between horses at full speed, and so on. Also involving a classic comedic sequence in which Lloyd attempts to hide the dog of his love interest (played by Lloyd’s reoccurring screen lover Jobyna Ralston) while on board a train, Girl Shy is perhaps the finest treasure from Lloyd’s oeuvre.

The Navigator (1924)
April 17, 2011, 9:29 pm
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Director(s): Donald Crisp & Buster Keaton

Following the significant technical achievements of one of his very best, Sherlock Jr., in The Navigator Buster Keaton once again stages a series of complex stunts, this time within a sea cruise and even on the ocean floor. Like many of his pictures, the film plays out like an extended masculinity test wherein the pampered Keaton, perennially out of his element, must prove his worth to marry the girl. At only an hour in length, the film is terrifically paced with a relentless onslaught of gags that never miss. Most memorable is an early sequence in which Keaton and Kathryne McGuire, after discovering that they’re at sea with only each other’s company, attempt to find each other aboard the liner. In a long shot, the soon-to-be lovers race across opposite sides of the decks, just missing each other at every turn. It’s a wonderful feat of choreography and timing that, rather than utilizing close-ups and reaction shots to achieve humor, allows the comedy to play wholly with the figures as mere specks on the massive canvas.