July 25th, 2014

carole lombard 05
  • vp19

A silent comparison in Britain: Chaplin vs. Lloyd

It's July 1925, and 16-year-old Carole Lombard is a Fox contract player, fresh off being Edmund Lowe's leading lady in "Marriage In Transit." (It's unclear whether it can be called a success; the film is lost, and years later Lombard disparaged her performance.) Regardless, Carole was of relative insignificance in the industry that summer, certainly compared to two titans of comedy...

...Charlie Chaplin (whom Lombard unsuccessfully sought to become his leading lady in "The Gold Rush") and Harold Lloyd (whom Carole probably met at one time or another, but beyond that I have no idea how often their paths crossed).

We bring this up because Britain's Guardian newspaper just issued an article from its archives, written 89 years ago today, which compared their styles and approaches to comedy and film (which the Brits then called "kinema"). It's fascinating to see at least one contemporary account on Charlie and Harold. (Oh, and if you're wondering about Buster Keaton, the other member of silent comedy's holy trinity, he's mentioned too, if only in passing.)

This piece came in the wake of Lloyd's latest release, "College Days" (the British title for "The Freshman"). The writer commends Harold for knowing his limitations, and not seeking to overproduce himself. It's interesting to see Lloyd criticized for being too sentimental, a charge frequently levied against Chaplin in later decades. Perhaps Charlie, the first true superstar of silent comedy, was beyond reproach in those days; remember, he came to the forefront well before Keaton or Lloyd.

From 1925 Britain, let's fast-forward to 2014 Los Angeles, and a fascinating video making the rounds of the Internet. It proves drones are like witches -- some are used for good, others for evil. The magic you'll see here is definitely on the benevolent side. A video camera was placed atop a drone early one morning and made its way through downtown...but don't expect to see those huge modern bank towers. Instead, this focuses on what's called "the downtown core" -- most of them buildings Lombard would have recognized. One is the iconic Eastern Columbia building, where my Facebook friend Monica Lewis, an MGM starlet in 1950, stood in front of its huge clock for a publicity picture, one that must have made her feel like Lloyd in "Safety Last!":

OK, here's that drone video, which Lewis, myself and many others love. I'm certain you will, too:

  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative