Loving (and Judging) Harold Lloyd

Well, thanks to a much needed and greatly appreciated contribution to our DVD library (courtesy of my nostalgic pal Danny), I had the good fortune of screening Harold Lloyd’s Movie Crazy (1932) last night. I know, Lloyd did not direct this film, but calling it Clyde Bruckman’s Movie Crazy hardly clarifies matters. In most cases, the ultimate and highest credit is given to the director; but just as often it rightly belongs to the actors, writers, or cinematographers who hold a film together and make it worth watching.

I have always preferred the middle-class milquetoast portrayed by Lloyd over the melancholy tramp created by Chaplin. Perhaps it is Chaplin’s ego that has shattered my belief in his sincerity. Perhaps, being partial to old-time radio, it irked me that Chaplin, unlike Lloyd, kept his eyes closed to broadcast drama. Perhaps, and more likely, it is easier for me to identify with Lloyd’s bespectacled fool coping with modern times than to ingest foolish spectacles steeped in pseudo-Dickensian treacle.

It is tiresome to explain one’s predilections. “What is there to say about what one loves except: I love it, and to keep on saying it?” This is how Roland Barthes expressed the difficulty of writing intelligently—and intelligibly—about our passions. I might flaunt my tastes yet by sharing some of my top-ten lists on this blog, whenever my fount of ideas dries out. Anyway, I decided to cast my vote for Movie Crazy over at the Internet Movie Database. My voting history is on public display for anyone registered at the IMDb.

So, how do I rate motion pictures? It sure is easier to review them than to determine how many stars (or thumbs up or rotten tomatoes) a film warrants (ten stars being the highest rating on IMDb, which I have given only once thus far, in recognition of this previously discussed masterpiece). Supposedly, we are to judge the entire picture, not some aspect of it. Am I to boost or lower a film’s overall ratings if I find it unfairly appraised? Am I to root for my favorite actress? And how do I rate a comedy on a melodrama day?

I have always had difficulties with such seemingly simple tasks as voting by numbers or grading by letters; for the same reason, I have done poorly when being put to the multiple choice test. I would rather share my thoughts about a work of art than declare my approval by adding numbers to a graph. Still, I am going to cast my vote, remembering Harold’s awkward courting of Mary and her alter ego (Constance Cummings, whom I had just seen in Blithe Spirit and, like Lloyd’s character, did not recognize in another role); bearing in mind a few slapstick routines that did not quite come off; recalling the superbly executed finale of the film; and unwilling to dismiss that I watched it with someone I love.

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