“The Boy” is a rich but quite lazy fellow who spends his time relaxing at the country club and not doing much else. There he meets “The Girl,” who he suddenly falls in love with and decides he wants to marry.
Surprisingly, The Girl is willing to accept the proposal so long as her father approves, even though she doesn’t know The Boy very well. The trouble is, her father is a tough man who disapproves of The Boy’s laziness and will only agree to let his daughter marry if she finds a man with good work ethic.
In order to prove himself, The Boy takes the first job he can find: he joins the U.S. Navy. Quickly forming lofty ambitions of becoming an Admiral straight away, The Boy finds that the Navy is nothing like he expected it to be. Will he be able to prove himself and get the girl, or will he fail and return to a life of lazy, loveless leisure?
Fred C. Newmeyer directs A Sailor-Made Man (1921). This silent comedy stars Harold Lloyd (in what is technically his first feature-length film, though it’s nowhere near as long as today’s features, clocking in at only 47 minutes) and his real-life love Mildred Davis as The Boy and The Girl, with supporting performances by Noah Young and Dick Sutherland. It was written by producer Hal Roach, Jean Havez and Sam Taylor.
Harold Lloyd is a fantastic comedic actor and he gives a really great performance here. He has wonderful chemistry with Davis, making it easy to see why they fell in love in the real world as well as on screen, marrying in 1923. They don’t share a ton of screen time in this film, since most of it focuses on his character alone, but when they do appear together they’re sickeningly cute.
Lloyd himself carries the film very well, having a lot of screen presence but not going too over-the-top with his expression of emotion. There are many funny moments in A Sailor-Made Man, most of which come from Lloyd’s character and performance. Some come through the dialogue displayed on intertitles as well, but Lloyd is certainly the star of the show here and brings the audience lots of laughs.
As a result of the focus on Lloyd’s character and his shining performance, the plot itself becomes somewhat unimportant. This is without a doubt his film, 110%, and the action-filled quest to win over the girl takes a back seat to his performance.
Though fast-paced and charming, the script is somewhat predictable and definitely follows the “wimpy guy steps up and gets the girl” formula. The premise does succeed in heightening the film’s sense of fun, and it is very exciting to watch, but the story isn’t the draw here.
A Sailor-Made Man is a very fun silent comedy, sure to delight fans of Harold Lloyd as well as fans of silent films in general.
The score: 4.5/5