Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Harry Langdon The Forgotten Clown |
The Strong Man / Tramp, Tramp, Tramp / Long Pants
Actors: Harry Langdon, Priscilla Bonner, Gertrude Astor, William V. Mong, Robert McKim
Directors: Frank Capra, Harry Edwards
Genres: Action & Adventure, Classics, Comedy, Documentary
Three complete features from the rediscovered genius of silent comedy! These classic silent slapstick films are the high points in Harry Langdon and Frank Capra's collaboration during 1926 and 1927, culminating in some of ... more »
The Fourth Man
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 05/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Harry Langdon is generally considered to be the fourth great silent comedian. Considering that the other three are Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, this assessment is high praise indeed. The three films on this DVD show Langdon at his best and are the reason why briefly, during 1926-27, he was very popular indeed. After this his decline into obscurity was swift, not least because he chose to leave one of the people most responsible for nurturing and developing his talent, a person by the name of Frank Capra. It is already apparent that Capra was a talented director, for the two films he directed The Strong Man and Long Pants are much better than the one he only co-wrote Tramp, Tramp, Tramp. Langdon is something of an acquired taste. His comic persona of a bewildered childlike man is such that he is rarely the agent of the events that happen to him. He is rather the passive recipient and the humour lies in his reaction to the circumstances which unfold around him. This reaction is often absurdly slow with Langdon reacting to something after it has already happened. He is thus a completely different sort of comic to, for example, Keaton whose behaviour is active, quick witted and in control. But this difference makes Langdon all the more of a pleasure to watch for he is a true original. Much of what makes Langdon so funny is the contrast between his style of comedy and that of Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd. His difference from them is one of the reasons why he was once so popular. This DVD is really great value lasting more than three hours and including the three best feature films of an important comedian. The colour-tinted prints of all three films are in good condition. There is some occasional damage and sometimes, especially on Long Pants, the print has become rather bleached and over-exposed, but for the most part these films have survived in a near mint condition. Each film is well scored with music which fits the action, adding to the atmosphere and aiding the comedy. These films are very funny indeed and this DVD is essential for fans of silent comedy."
Classic silent slapstick films
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 09/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not an especially big fan of silent movies, but I do have a soft spot (on my head) for silent comedies. Having recently purchased a Laurel and Hardy DVD, Amazon made the recommendation of this disc, and I decided to give it a try.The Strong Man (1926) Directed by Frank Capra has Harry as a Paul, clueless Belgian solider who gets captured and carried away by an enemy soldier. After the war is over, we see the two of them arrive in America, and the soldier that captured Harry is none other than The Great Zandow, a strong man by profession. Seems The Great Zandow has made Harry his personal assistant. Was this common practice back in the day? Making captured prisoners indentured servants? No matter...Harry is more concerned with finding a romantic pen pal who sent him uplifting letters during the war. This leads a particularly funny sequence involving a case of mistaken identity, a gangster's moll, and a wad of illicit cash. Later we see Zandow and Co. (Paul) travel to Cloverdale, a small, wholesome town that has suffered an invasion of hooligans. Seems they have taken over the main city building and turning it into a beer and dance hall, much to the dismay of the more pious members of the community. Well, The Great Zandow has been booked to perform in the hall, and on their arrival, Paul finds his female pen pal, but their meeting is cut short as the strongman gets drunk and Paul is forced to perform in his place, with disastrous results. This one, in my opinion, is the funniest of the three presented here, and also the best looking in clarity and definition.The next feature, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926) has Harry as the son of a shoemaker and we find that they are having difficultly paying their rent and will be thrown out in the street in three months unless they come up with the money. Harry decides to go out and find a way to come up with the money, and stumbles into a major shoe manufacturers' promotional cross country walking race that will net the winner $25,000. Also, Harry becomes smitten with the president of the major shoe company's daughter, played by Joan Crawford. The race starts, and this leads to a number of comedic sequences, one involving a fence and a cliff, another involving stolen fruit and a prison chain gang, and so on. As the race comes to an end, watch for the cyclone scene, a truly inspired bit. The picture quality on this feature is not as good as the first, as there are some more noticeable flaws, but overall it's quite good, considering the age of the material.The third and last feature on this disc, Long Pants (1927), directed by Frank Capra, is kind of an odd, sometimes creepy feature with spots of comedy. This one seems to put people off, and it's understandable. This one has Harry living with his parents, and shows him in short pants (knee length). He's taken an interest in women romantically, but, being that he's still in short pants, the women consider him still a boy. For Harry's birthday, his father wants to give him a pair of long pants, but his mother objects as she thinks it will be some sort of corrupting influence on their son. In the end, she relents, and Harry gets his long pants. I have to say, it seemed really creepy seeing a 40ish man in short pants. Anyway, it seems Harry is betrothed to a local girl, but becomes smitten with another woman, one who is in trouble with the law for smuggling 'snow', among other things. She ends up getting jailed, much to Harry's dismay. On the day of Harry's wedding, he concocts a scheme to get out of the wedding, and here's where it really gets creepy. His scheme involves taking his fiancé out into the woods and shooting her dead. He attempts this, but comic mishaps ensue. The bear trap gag was truly a great bit. In the end, he's not successful, and basically ditches his family to goes to rescue this other woman. She manages to escape, hides in a crate, and Harry tries to get her out of town. I thought this whole sequence was quite funny, and made up somewhat for the earlier creepiness. Everything works out in the end. I read another review on this feature, and I think it hit the nail on the head in that the reviewer stated that some of the situations played out in this feature are out of Langdon's character, as we want to like him, but a fantasy about killing his fiance' doesn't really make for a likeable character. This feature has the worst picture quality of the three, especially at the beginning, when the picture seems very bleached and washed out. The quality does improve marginally throughout the movie, but never matches the clarity of the other two. Again, given the age of the material, all three are actually in pretty good shape.There are no extra features, but there are chapter stops for each film, and the total run time is around three hours (one hour for each film), so I feel I received a really good value, and was enlightened to a lesser-known comedic talent of a bygone period. Laurel and Hardy will always be my favorite, but there is always room for more.Cookieman108"
Why Harry was forgotten
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 08/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's important to remember that not only is Harry Langdon an acquired taste for some people, but that the modern-day assessment of the greatest silent clowns is something people make in hindsight. For example, Harry was never considered one of the great silent clowns (except, probably, during his all too brief heyday) the same way Buster Keaton, now considered one of the big three, never was ranked that high either back then (he wasn't recognised as one of the greats until the 1950s). In the Teens and early Twenties, a number of now-forgotten comedians were routinely #2 on the lists of the best comedians, some (such as Roscoe Arbuckle and Larry Semon) even beating out Chaplin as the #1 clown in some areas. If it hadn't been for the unfortunate scandal in 1921, it's almost certain that Arbuckle would still be considered one of the top silent clowns. And so after various events like that occurred, not just the scandal but other silent clowns who are generally largely forgotten today diminishing in popularity, critics came up with other names to make up a new list. Harry Langdon was just one of those names.
During Harry's own brief original heyday, he was considered the fourth great silent clown, but it appears as though he was always a distant fourth, not someone held in as high or consistent regard as a Lloyd or Chaplin. He was already a veteran of vaudeville when he transitioned to film in 1923, and this move from stage to screen led to a meteoric rise and some quite good shorts and features, many of them directed by the better-remembered legend Frank Capra. The two of them had a falling-out during the making of the disastrous 'Long Pants,' with Harry siding with the writer and not the director of this film, and due to this the picture lost money. After this he fired Capra and began directing all of his own movies from then on out, which basically sealed his fate; most of his movies from then on out (the majority of the films he starred in were actually sound pictures) were financial disasters, driving people away as quickly as they had flocked to see this shining original new comedic star.
The three films on this disc are a mixed bag. 'The Strong Man' is easily the best of the three-fold sample, and even only having seen these three, it can easily be apparent to the first-time viewer just why it is considered to be Langdon's best feature film. Harry plays hapless Belgian soldier Paul Bergot, who is captured during WWI and brought back to America with the other soldier, as part of his circus act. Paul however is more interested in tracking down his American penpal Mary, who happens to be the daughter of the local preacher in one of the towns they end up having to perform in, a town rife with corruption and out of control seedy elements. There are a lot of good creative gags and scenes in this film, getting better and stronger as it goes along. The second film, 'Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,' is also pretty good and entertaining, but not quite as fine as the first film. This one is about the son of a poor shoemaker, determined to raise enough money to save his wheelchair-bound father from bankruptcy, who ends up in a cross-country walk that will easily earn him enough money, if he's the winner, to save the day. The daughter of the man whose company is sponsoring this walk (Joan Crawford in a very early role) also happens to be the girl Harry is smitten with. The final film, 'Long Pants,' is just bizarre, some good moments but overall really painful and unfunny to watch. I agree with people who have noticed how creepy it is to see fortysomething Harry wearing a short pair of pants, up in the attic, eavesdropping on his parents arguing over whether he should get a chance to wear long pants. His mother is convinced wearing short pants has kept him out of trouble, and although this probably wasn't intentional, the way all of this is portrayed and played out, one can get the impression that Harry is "special," and this impression gets even stronger as the film wears on. He seems more than just childlike and sheltered, he seems more infantile and moronic. And the business of him trying to shoot his would-be bride in the woods is more disturbing than funny. I didn't get a single laugh out of this film, and can see why he fell from grace so quickly when this film was released. He was only great when he was being handled by the right people; when he was directing himself he no longer had anyone around for quality control and ego checking.
I wanted to like Harry, and I liked 'The Strong Man' enough to want to see some of his earlier two-reelers, where perhaps he seems more funny and likeable, but I just didn't personally connect with his character enough to root for him and sympathise with him. I wouldn't say I found him irritating and annoying as others have done, just more like clueless, passive, and infantile, not the sweet endearing kind of stupidity and childlikeness other comedians who played similar characters (such as Stan Laurel and Curly Howard) displayed. And he did co-write some of Laurel and Hardy's best feature films, so it's not like he totally lost a sense of funnyness in his later years. I guess I'm just one of those people who feels Langdon is an acquired taste as opposed to instantly becoming a fan."
Two hits and a (very big) miss.
A. Grossman | Florence, Oregon USA | 03/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As most people say, Langdon is an acquired taste. A little goes a long way and he was totally one dimensional but when handled right - aka Frank Capra - he was very funny. The Strong Man is one of the funniest silent conedies ever made and showcases his talents. His scene with moll Gertrude Astor is hilarious. Tramp Tramp Tramp is also good- Joan Crawford helps - but a plateau lower than the first film. Long pants is the of the unfunniest films ever made and Langdon's fingerprints are all over it showing why his career collapsed so quickly. It is unwatchable and his character is so underwhelming that it is impossible to feel anything but contempt for him. The DVD is recommended, though, for the first two films which give much joy while the last should be studied by any film maker who desires to self destruct."