These stories are usually set in fictional kingdoms, and often employ elements of social and political satire that would likely have been less acceptable to contemporary audiences if set in any recognizable place. The court depicted in His Royal Slyness is an amusingly jumbled patchwork of eras and cultures which mixes bits of Elizabethan, Victorian, and Mittel European costuming and decor, but the angry revolutionaries gathered in the village square are very definitely patterned after the era's Bolsheviks. The Russian Civil War was at its height in 1920, and American audiences were seeing people who looked like this in their newspapers and newsreels on a daily basis. Interestingly, despite the prevailing anti-Red sentiment in the U.S. at the time, the people responsible for this comedy seemed to take the angry protesters seriously, and didn't play them for easy laughs: there are no wild-eyed bomb-throwers, and no fleas in anyone's beard. The courtiers, on the other hand, are useless, decadent and drunk. We can only wonder if the filmmakers intended some sort of political commentary by casting character actor Gus Leonard as both "King Razzamatazz" and an angry, bedraggled orator outside the palace walls.
When the story begins, Harold is a brash door-to-door salesman, a dead ringer for a dissolute Prince who is in America supposedly going to school. The Prince (played by Harold's real life older brother, Gaylord) is actually playing hooky and spending all his time with his vamp-y girlfriend, and doesn't feel like going home when he is summoned. Harold, who happens along at just the right moment, is persuaded, Prisoner of Zenda-style, to assume the Prince's identity and go in his place. Once he arrives in court, Harold tries to ingratiate himself with the chilly nobles, flirts with some cute pages (girls, of course), and then romances the Prince's fiancée. But the real Prince, having been jilted by his American mistress, returns, and Harold is tossed out. Almost immediately, and quite by accident, Harold finds himself leading the mob of rebels storming the palace. The monarchy is overthrown, Harold is installed as President, and, in one last political joke, immediately becomes a despot, and issues orders which are quickly and fearfully obeyed!
Okay, so Jonathan Swift it ain't, but His Royal Slyness is a highly enjoyable comedy with undeniable elements of political satire. While it's not as laugh-packed as Charley Chase's Long Fliv the King (which in my opinion is the funniest of these mythical kingdom shorts), it is nonetheless amusing and surprisingly sharp, and also presents a good sample of Harold Lloyd's evolving comic style. The star himself comes off quite well here: he's young, trim, and decidedly more flirty with the ladies than the later, girl-shy Harold. The supporting cast features such Lloyd stalwarts as Snub Pollard, Noah Young, and Mildred Davis, who would later become Mrs. Harold Lloyd and retire from performing. The film is also interesting as a kind of dry run for the classic Why Worry? of 1923, in which Harold would once more fall afoul of violent plotters in an exotic foreign land.