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A women's track team is preparing for a big meet against a rival college, but the coach is having trouble getting her team ready. Norma, the team's star, is more interested in slipping out to meet her boyfriend than she is with getting ready for the meet, so Norma and the coach engage in a clash of wills. Written by
Carole Lombard, still a teenager, hits the ground running
We can be grateful for the survival of this short comedy nowadays, because it provides a tantalizing glimpse of the 19 year-old Carole Lombard. She's certainly the best reason to seek it out, but unfortunately Run, Girl, Run isn't much of a showcase; it's a half-hearted effort produced during the Mack Sennett Studio's waning days, after many of the best directors and gag writers had departed. Carole's primary task on this occasion is to primp and look pretty while much of the comic business is handled by diminutive, energetic Daphne Pollard. The underrated Miss Pollard provides the funniest moments, from the opening sequence right down to the surreal wrap-up gag, while Carole serves as little more than a decorative bystander. On second thought, "bystander" may not be the most accurate term for Miss Lombard's role on this occasion, for she plays a collegiate track star who spends much of her time running, and the rest of it canoodling with her boyfriend. They could have called this two-reeler "Hot to Trot."
The action is set at a women's college called Sunnydale, "where the girls learned the Three R'sRomeos, Roadsters and Roller-Skates." (That introductory title card is a tip-off that Sennett's writers didn't work too hard on this assignment.) The opening sequence is set on a practice field where the girls prepare for a big track meet against the school's arch rival. Daphne plays Minnie Marmon, the girls' athletic coach, and early on she performs a neat bit of physical comedy, running for the high jump as her pants gradually slide off. Daphne's good, but too much of the ensuing humor is at the expense of a hefty young woman wearing a highly unflattering pair of shorts. Carole, on the other hand, looks great and is granted a couple of lovely soft-focus close-ups. For some reason her character name is Norma Nurmi. We soon meet Norma's boyfriend, a military cadet who specializes in "heartillery" (groan). The young lovers plan a moonlight rendezvous, well aware that they're breaking school rules.
The bulk of the film takes place that night, as Norma and her beau attempt to meet for their forbidden tryst, the coach tries to keep Norma in the dorm, and the Dean, who is something of a dirty old man, sneaks around spying on the girls. This sequence offers the film's best and worst moments, back-to-back. On the minus side, there's some unpleasant racial humor involving an African American man caught stealing chickensall too typical of Sennett comedies from this periodand a cat mistreated for an easy laugh. "Bunion pads" are stuck to the cat's feet, causing him to stagger uncomfortably, trying to shake them off. (Larry Semon did something similar to a cat in his short The Grocery Clerk in 1919, and I didn't find it funny there, either.) On the plus side, this sequence offers Carole a moment or two to prove that she could be more than merely decorative: her exaggerated tip-toe as she attempts to escape the dorm is amusing, and a little later, when Coach Minnie catches her reaching for the window, she smoothly turns the move into a sudden burst of calisthenics. It's a long way from My Man Godfrey, but even this early in her career, Lombard demonstrates that she already knew a thing or two about physical comedy, and how to play to the camera.
The climax is the big track meet between the girls of Sunnydale and their rivals from Primpmore. The funniest thing about the finale is the hilariously fey referee, a man who looks like a character out of a Fleischer cartoon. As in the opening scene, it's Daphne who delivers most of the laughs. It is she, not the nominal star of the show, who is featured in the film's strange final moment, when Coach Marmon knocks herself silly against the goal post and we're treated to a distorted, fun-house mirror image of her face, meant to suggest that she's dazed. Looks like the writers needed to wrap up this puppy somehow, and decided to go a little bizarre at the finale.
Carefully selected clips from Run, Girl, Run were used in Robert Youngson's delightful compilation The Golden Age of Comedy, but it turns out this is one of those films that plays better in brief excerpts than in its entirety. It isn't easy to find any of Carole Lombard's silent movies, so her fans will want to see it regardless. Even so, if more of her Sennett comedies become available for home viewing, I hope they'll turn out to be better than this one. It would be nice to find a showcase for Carole as a gifted comedian as well as a beauty, seeing as how she was both.
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