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All silent movie buffs know about Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH and Keaton's THE
GENERAL. Strangely, THE KID BROTHER has been almost forgotten, which is a
shame, as it is Harold Lloyd's masterpiece.
Better known for the "human fly" sequence in SAFETY LAST, it is in THE KID BROTHER that Harold reaches the top level of silent comedy stardom, alongside Chaplin & Keaton.
The story is a Western, set mostly on the ranch where Harold lives with his burly sheriff father and two older brothers. There's a dumb bully down the road, a very pretty young lady, a traveling medicine show and a nasty, bald bad guy. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but suffice it to say that Harold gets to showcase his famous athletic agility and there is a very complex & satisfying final showdown with Mr. Bad Guy at the climax.
For pure romanticism, however, there are few scenes in any silent film that can beat the one where Harold climbs a tree, ever higher, for one more glimpse of the very pretty young lady. It's about as sweet as they come...
THE KID BROTHER should be the film Lloyd to be remembered by. No matter how many times you watch it, you can always find something you did not notice previously. The structure of the film is something to be marveled at. It is so delicately built that every frame, even every prop serves a purpose for either characterization or as link between gags, or both. Even the tilt of the abandoned ship serves toward the end of the movie. The film is so beautifully shot that it has an idyllic quality. It also has a really great plot and even greater sight gags. And Lloyd's acting is beyond praise. The film itself is a masterful blend of great comedy and sentiments. Definitely one of the best silent films ever made.
Even though I had enjoyed several of Lloyd's films, I never really looked at him as being on the same level as Keaton. That's changed after seeing "The Kid Brother." The last half hour is as entertaining as anything on film. Harold's resourcefulness while fighting is a thing to behold! And the monkey with the shoes? Fantastic!
In some ways it's a shame that Harold Lloyd is so associated with the
film Safety Last. This is not because it is a bad film (in fact it's
one of his better ones) but because it represents a style of film that
is based almost completely on physical humor, whereas his best films
also included significantly more plot, exceptional cinematography and a
lot of heart.
Among my favorites is THE KID BROTHER. It is very funny at times, but all the humor takes a back seat to the plot involving Lloyd falling for Jobyna Ralston (as he had in many previous films). The camera work is just unbelievable and just goes to show that just because this is a silent film doesn't mean it wasn't a very artistic film. A funny, sweet, beautiful and memorable film! And, because of it's gorgeous and beautifully crafted scenes, it's highly reminiscent of the best of Chaplin's full-length films, such as CITY LIGHTS. This film certainly has a lot of heart and will shock anyone expecting slapstick.
So is THE KID BROTHER or THE FRESHMAN Lloyd's best film--it's hard to say. The FRESHMAN is more enjoyable and funny, but there is an elegance to THE KID BROTHER that help it transcend the genre--making it truly a work of art. As for me, I love them both and recommend you see them soon!
Even by Harold Lloyd's high standards, this is one of his most
entertaining and most imaginative movies. It combines humor and
melodrama very well, and it is particularly rich in sight gags, again
even by Lloyd's standards. Lloyd has a character that is well suited to
his style, and he adds some impressive stunts as well.
As "The Kid Brother", Lloyd's character is the put-upon son of a tough sheriff, with two older, domineering brothers. The story has Harold involved romantically with Jobyna Ralston, who comes to town with a traveling medicine show that the sheriff is trying to shut down. There is also a large sum of money that has been collected for a new dam, and entrusted to the sheriff. There is a lot going on, and Lloyd's character faces challenges and difficulties both from his family and from the villains in the medicine show.
The efforts of Lloyd's character to win the respect of his family give the plot some depth that complements the comedy and melodrama well. The action sequences often combine stunts, drama, and visual comedy at the same time, and there are just enough thoughtful moments to keep the important characters from becoming flat. Constantine Romanoff makes a memorable villain, and the lengthy showdown in the old abandoned ship is a wonderful set piece with lots of interesting details.
It's well worth watching a number of times, in order to catch and enjoy everything that Lloyd and the rest of the cast and crew have packed into less than an hour and a half of running time. How fortunate it is that this and Lloyd's other gems have finally come out on DVD for all of us silent movie fans to enjoy.
While this is not one of Lloyd's most famous films, It is certainly one of his best. You can look through countless numbers of comedy films (The Gold Rush and The General included)and you will struggle to see better timing than that on display here. That is not a put down to those two classic comedies it is only a testament to the timing of Lloyd, Who was certainly on a par with Chaplin and Keaton. In this movie he plays the weakling in a family with two strapping brothers and a large hard to please father. Always put upon Harold has to capture a villain by himself to gain the respect of his father and brothers, And win the heart of his fair maiden. The amount of sight gags crammed into this 80 minutes is incredible, and the timing is as I said earlier is absolutely perfect.
I kept thinking how he deserves recognition as one of the great silent
comedians alongside Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin--especially with
his wonderful work in the well-crafted THE KID BROTHER.
The simple plot has him as the youngest and rather nerdy kid brother with his two strapping brothers towering over him as the apple of their father's eyes. Whenver something has to be done, he's left out of the picture while his father assigns his brothers to the task.
But the funniest scenes have to do with him trying to outwit and pull fast tricks on his brothers in a series of sight gags. They're perfectly willing to bully him whenever a show of muscle is involved--particularly when impressing a girl they all have a yen for.
There are too many sight gags to enumerate here and they all involve physical dexterity and timing of the highest order. A particularly demanding set of stunts are performed in the latter half of the story when our hero must board a ghost ship to retrieve money his father has been accused of stealing. The scenes involve a monkey in a sailor suit and a vicious villain out for the kill in keeping hold on stolen money.
All of it is photographed with great style and there's an emotional attachment to the romantic angle involving the girl (JOBYNA RALSTON) so that the hectic comedy is anchored by a story that keeps the comedy on firm ground.
Summing up: A delightful physical comedy, wonderfully photographed and played by an excellent cast, with Lloyd at his all-time best. In my opinion, this one tops SAFETY FIRST.
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!
Comedies like this simply are not made anymore. "The Kid Brother" has
some of the most excellent timing of any comedy I've ever seen.
Everything from the gag involving Lloyd tumbling out of a tree to the
scenes with the monkey toward the end are simply hilarious. The plot is
as typical as in any Harold Lloyd film, but that doesn't matter. All
that makes these films as great as they are is the sense of timing and
the brilliance of the comedy. Fans of Lloyd generally consider this to
be his greatest film, and I would simply have to agree with that. Some
of his other movies may tend to slow down until they get to a
hilarious, climactic ending. The difference with this one is that it is
much faster-paced and full of great comedy throughout. The gags in this
film simply must be seen to realize how funny they are. You will laugh
and laugh at this movie. One of the greatest comedies of all time. They
just don't make them this funny anymore.
**** out of ****
As for silent films, I consider "The Kid Brother" every bit as good as Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" or Keaton's "The General" and not too far behind "City Lights", in my mind, the ultimate silent masterpiece. To me it's Harold Lloyd's best and why it isn't more well-known to fans of old movies, I don't know.
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