The most important family in Hickoryville is (naturally enough) the Hickorys, with sheriff Jim and his tough manly sons Leo and Olin. The timid youngest son, Harold, doesn't have the ... See full summary »
The most important family in Hickoryville is (naturally enough) the Hickorys, with sheriff Jim and his tough manly sons Leo and Olin. The timid youngest son, Harold, doesn't have the muscles to match up to them, so he has to use his wits to win the respect of his strong father and also the love of beautiful Mary. Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE KID BROTHER (Ted Wilde, J. A. Howe and, uncredited, Lewis Milestone, 1927) ****
Arguably Harold Lloyd's greatest film, made contemporaneously with Buster Keaton's equivalent, THE GENERAL (1927); interestingly, while the former was a box-office hit, the latter's reception was more lukewarm - its reputation having been cemented (indeed vindicated) with time; ultimately, while THE KID BROTHER may lack the scope of Keaton's masterwork, it's no less meticulously crafted or well filmed. Still, it's not quite as renowned as other Lloyds - such as SAFETY LAST! (1923) or THE FRESHMAN (1925) - which actually makes its discovery as an unequivocal gem, not only in the pantheon of comedy but among the finest productions of the Silent era, all the more sweeter!
The plot was admittedly borrowed from the famous Silent melodrama TOL'ABLE David (1921) - which I've never watched myself - but, like THE GENERAL, it seamlessly mingles dazzling comic invention with a serious (a sure indication of this is the fact that it dispenses entirely with Lloyd's typically sarcastic title cards), compelling and exciting plot line; in this case, Harold (again, like Keaton's rejected soldier) has to prove he's the equal of his stalwart family by standing up to the villain - a sinister-looking medicine-show strongman - and recover a cache of stolen money, thus righting a wrong done his father (largely at the instigation of his eternal rival - the long-lasting family feud had also been utilized by Keaton for one of his most beautiful films, OUR HOSPITALITY ).
It's quite futile to mention individual gags from the film because it has a plethora of them, all being incredibly clever (apart from hilarious) and are milked for all they're worth - generally so as to play up to the resourcefulness of our hero. As a matter of fact, the film rarely pauses for breath between one set-piece and the next - while the last half-hour (largely confined to an offshore boat) is thrillingly packed with intense action and suspense, as it speeds towards a happy resolution of all its various plot strands. Jobyna Ralston is once again Lloyd's leading lady here; actually, this proved to be their last collaboration.
I've failed to mention before now the invaluable contribution which the scores by either Carl Davis or Robert Israel have contributed to these Silent films, but Davis' sterling work here (composed for Kevin Brownlow's Photoplay re-issue of 1990) is particularly effective. By the way, the film was started by Lewis Milestone but had to step down from the director's chair due to a contractual dispute; it was taken over by Ted Wilde but even he was replaced (by J.A. Howe) at some later point after he was struck by an illness; this led to the film's shooting schedule extending to a six-month period - but all these various calamities, thankfully, didn't affect the ultimate quality of THE KID BROTHER one bit!
P.S. The film was partly shot on the spot where Forest Lawn cemetery (where many a Hollywood star is buried) was eventually built - and which happens to be located near the Universal studio offices that host the New York Film Academy classes I attended last year!
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