A country boy is leaving home for the city, offering promises of good behavior to his family. Finding city life difficult, it is not long before he makes an enemy of bad-tempered Bull Buckley. Unable to make peace, the young man has a series of altercations with Buckley before his antagonist is finally arrested. The boy then wanders into a café frequented by movie stars, and is soon offered a part filling in for Lloyd Hamilton, whom he closely resembles. But he soon finds out that movie life has its complications. Written by
Only in Hollywood: Washington dines with Lincoln, surrounded by cowboys & gladiators
Lloyd "Ham" Hamilton is the Forgotten Man of the silent era. Although he never made the top tier of comedians alongside Chaplin and Keaton he was popular with the public and respected by his peers, but, like his friend and colleague Charley Chase, Ham never received the recognition that was his due. Worse still where posterity is concerned, much of his work was destroyed in a vault fire in the late '30s, leaving only a handful of his films scattered across the world. Of these survivors Nobody's Business is the best I've seen to date, but The Movies is an amusing and intriguing two-reel comedy that offers the added bonus of featuring our hero in a dual role. First we encounter him in his usual screen persona, i.e. "Ham," a sad sack forever dogged by hard luck, and then we meet comedian Lloyd Hamilton, playing himself, surrounded by his fellow movie-makers. There are good gags throughout this comedy but it's the inside jokes about Hollywood and the movie business that represent the most off-beat and interesting elements.
The first half plays like one of Ham's typical misadventures. Almost immediately upon his arrival in the big city (a great visual gag in itself) his difficulties begin and then quickly multiply. He has trouble crossing the street, trouble with a cop, and trouble when he collides with a big guy who seems to take the matter very much to heart. Eventually Ham winds up in a restaurant favored by movie actors, where he encounters exotic women and odd-looking persons wearing historical costumes. In an especially surreal moment he sees three of the four U.S. Presidents carved on Mount Rushmore dining together. Appropriately, Abraham Lincoln is assigned the punch-line to this sequence.
Soon after, comedian Lloyd Hamilton enters the restaurant with his director, and this is where the film's major inside joke occurs: Hamilton, who is walking with the aid of a cane, laments that he can't finish his current picture because of a leg injury. In 1915, during his early years in the movies, Hamilton did indeed injure his leg badly while filming a stunt, and the injury was serious enough to sideline him for months. That was the unhappy reality of the situation, but in this comic re-imagining of the event Hamilton's director spots "Ham" at the next table (thanks to the clever use of split-screen photography) and gets the notion to sign this look-alike to double for the star, thus enabling the studio to complete the project.
Unfortunately, the final sequence in the movie studio feels rushed and isn't as inspired as we might like. Director Roscoe Arbuckle, who certainly knew a thing or two about the movie business, apparently ran out of inspiration at this crucial point and wrapped things up with a couple of perfunctory gags instead of a real finale. Nonetheless, The Movies is a pleasant and diverting comedy over all, and it may serve to sharpen the viewer's interest in the talented, star-crossed and elusive Lloyd Hamilton. We can only hope for more discoveries from the vaults!
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