Welcome to this week’s edition of FilmStruck Friday! Every Friday here on TMP, with the exception of the first Friday of the month (which is reserved for “Favorite things about…”), we’ll be taking a look at a film available through the TCM and Criterion Collection streaming service. Today I’m highlighting a pair of Harold Lloyd comedic shorts. Happy viewing!
While not necessarily extensive, FilmStruck has some fun offerings in the way of silent film, including several Harold Lloyd comedy shorts. On a rather dreary and sniffle-filled afternoon earlier this month, I was in need of a laugh, so I decided to watch two of these shorts: Take a Chance (1918) and Just Neighbors (1919). Both of these films star Lloyd along with Bebe Daniels and Harry “Snub” Pollard.
Take a Chance features Daniels as a “hired girl” washing porch steps. Lloyd is a man setting out to spend his last twenty-five cents. Will it go toward a meal, or a hair cut? Neither, it turns out, when his quarter falls through a sewer grate.
The two meet when Lloyd sulks away from main street and slips on the sidewalk due to Daniels and her bucket of soapy water. A tussle of sorts ensues in slapstick fashion as Lloyd slips and slides around, becoming frustrated.
Just when the two are finally beginning to get over the incident and get along, “Simplex Joe” (Pollard) rolls up in his car to whisk the girl off to a picnic. Lloyd, of course, is not to be outdone, and chases the car, jumping into the back seat to tag along.
Some of Take a Chance‘s gags are familiar and expected — falls, Daniels accidentally hitting someone in the face with her mop, a “wet paint” bit. But it’s a fun and fast-paced 10 minutes. The settings of main street, Daniels’ soapy stoop, and the picnic park are blended seamlessly so that the same sequence of events could easily be adapted into a musical number. There’s a very rhythmic, choreographed quality to the movement in this film.
The highlight for me was Lloyd’s big chase scene, in which he runs from the cops… to the edge of a cliff, which he proceeds to roll down in a metal garbage can before stealing a bicycle!
Just Neighbors is around the same length as Take a Chance, a minute or so shorter. This time around, Lloyd and Daniels are married, and Pollard is their neighbor. These folks “live so far in the suburbs the katydids carry lightning-bugs for lanterns,” according to an early intertitle!
When we meet the husbands, they’re both on a quest to make it home — Pollard with two live chickens, and Lloyd with a flower pot. They’re attempting to do nice things for their homes, setting up a chicken coop and planting a garden, but they run into a lot of trouble along the way. Once they actually make it home, they nearly destroy their yards in a flurry of slapstick mishaps!
Just Neighbors is basically a comedy of clumsy people. And the fights caused by their clumsiness. As a fellow clumsy person, I found it quite funny, though I did enjoy Take a Chance a bit more.
Highlights in this one for me were everything involving the adorable dog… especially that moment where Lloyd gives up his gardening in favor of puppy snuggles, and a talking bird calling Daniel’s a liar when she says her dog is a “good Presbyterian.”
Take a Chance and Just Neighbors are two enjoyable shorts, a very fun starting point from which to dig into FilmStruck’s silent offerings.