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Three's a Crowd (1927)

Harry, The Odd Fellow, is a tenement worker who lives alone in a shack alongside a warehouse and longs for the companionship of a wife and children like other men.

Director:

Harry Langdon

Writers:

Robert Eddy (adaptation), James Langdon (adaptation) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview:
Harry Langdon ... Harry - the Odd Fellow
Gladys McConnell ... Gladys - the Girl
Cornelius Keefe ... The Husband
Arthur Thalasso Arthur Thalasso ... Harry's Boss
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Storyline

Harry, The Odd Fellow, is a tenement worker who lives alone in a shack alongside a warehouse and longs for the companionship of a wife and children like other men.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

melodrama | See All (1) »

Taglines:

Under the magic of Harry's wistful smile, the world of make-believe turns into life- sad, joyous, bitter-sweet...just as life is. Here is an artist with the scope of all humanity. The screen cannot boast his equal! (Print ad- Santa Cruz Evening News, ((Santa Cruz, Calif.)) 13 February 1928)

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

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User Reviews

 
How Not to Make a Silent Comedy, in several uneasy lessons
24 May 2007 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

Three's a Crowd is one of those famous silent comedies -- or is "notorious" the better word? -- that has been difficult to find in any format suitable for home viewing, and hardly ever gets any public screenings. It's well known to silent comedy buffs mainly because it proved to be a career killer for its producer/director/star, Harry Langdon. Although the production values appear to be rather modest, this brief feature cost a lot of money to make, mainly because of poor planning and extensive re-takes. When it flopped at the box office Langdon never recovered his footing. His earlier features benefited from the writing and directorial skills of Harry Edwards, Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra, but by the time Three's a Crowd went into production only Ripley remained. The resulting product suggests that Langdon took on more than he could manage, and couldn't handle the demands of properly crafting a feature-length film to suit his eccentric screen persona.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the basic premise, although in outline the plot may sound a bit sticky: oddball loner Harry adopts a young woman on the run from her dissolute boyfriend, and when she gives birth he acts as caretaker for both mother and child. When the boyfriend (now suitably reformed) shows up, however, the two young lovers reconcile and depart with their child, leaving Harry alone and forlorn. With a story like that any comedian is going to need some strong laugh sequences to avoid a descent into bathos, but therein lies the biggest single problem with this film, and it's a cardinal sin for any comedy: it just isn't very funny. Gags as such are few and far between. Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd knew how to develop gag sequences with a strong hook, then build momentum to a big climax, but that never happens in Three's a Crowd. There are occasional, strange semi-gags that sort of erupt and then sputter out, often concluding on an anticlimactic note, and other bits that aren't really gags at all, just oddities. For example: after waking up in the morning Harry goes to a cabinet, takes out a kerosene lamp that has apparently been burning all night, blows it out, places it back in the cabinet and shuts the door. It's a strange moment, but that's all it is. Later, he shows up at work with a lunch pail, opens it, and reveals a cup of hot coffee already poured and sitting neatly in a saucer. Another odd moment, but not what you'd call a belly laugh.

A major problem from the opening scene onward is the director's erratic grasp of timing. There are seemingly endless shots of the star staring blankly, blinking, and puttering around to little effect, or doing the same things repeatedly, such as trying to amuse the baby with funny faces, over and over and over. On top of that, when preview screenings indicated that the film was in trouble Langdon re-cut and re-edited so extensively that certain plot points make no sense. (A sub-plot involving a carrier pigeon who delivers a love letter is confusing because footage is missing, however.) Another problem: in Langdon's earlier features Harry was pitted against strong opponents such as Vernon Dent and Gertrude Astor, but here the supporting players aren't especially colorful and don't provide much conflict. Aside from our lead comic, the strongest impression, curiously enough, is made by the set: a garret apartment at the top of an impressively long and rickety stairway that leads up the side of a building and looks like something out of a German Expressionist melodrama. It's not exactly funny, but it sure is striking. Aside from the set, the most memorable element is a dream sequence that occurs towards the end. In this bit Harry imagines himself as a boxer, complete with absurdly over-sized glove, defending his household from an interloper, i.e. the baby's father. It's an interesting scene and stands as the highlight, but even this sequence lacks punch (so to speak) and, instead of building to a strong climax, dwindles away.

Langdon's defenders assert that he was a gifted director, but his real problem was that he lacked the ability to produce his own films; i.e., to keep costs under control. The latter point may well be correct, but there is little evidence of directorial skill on display here. A quirky, offbeat sensibility most certainly, but no sense of proportion or control. Silent comedy buffs interested in Langdon's meteoric rise and fall will definitely want to see Three's a Crowd, but although it offers occasional worthwhile moments and the odd chuckle or two, the experience is ultimately a harrowing one. This isn't a comedy so much as a Post Mortem examination of what killed Langdon's career, and a textbook example of how ego can overwhelm talent.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

None | English

Release Date:

28 August 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Gratitude See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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