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Skirt Shy (1929)

Harry must pose as a woman to help the women he works for get a marriage proposal.

Directors:

Charley Rogers (as Charles Rogers), Fred Guiol (uncredited)

Writer:

H.M. Walker (story editor)
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Cast

Cast overview:
Harry Langdon ... Dobbs, the butler
May Wallace ... Maggie Herring
Tom Ricketts ... Edgar, the old beau
Judith Barrett ... Nancy, the maid (as Nancy Dover)
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Storyline

Dobbs and Nancy, butler and maid to dowager Maggie Herring, learn from their employer that she is broke. If Edgar, her aged suitor, doesn't propose immediately, she'll lose the house and the pair will lose their jobs. While Maggie's off at the bank seeking mercy, Edgar arrives with flowers. To detain him, Nancy convinces Dobbs to don Maggie's clothes. "Pretend to be angry," Nancy advises. The plan seems to be working, with Edgar penitent and Dobbs unforgiving, when a gun-slinging Westerner, who used to court Maggie, arrives to seek her hand again. Bricks, bullets, and bloomers fly. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 November 1929 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Roach Studios See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to an advertisement from the Ogden Standard Examiner (dated July 20, 1930) this film proceeded New Movietone Follies of 1930 (1930) three nights in a row at the Orpheum Theater in Ogden, Utah. See more »

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User Reviews

 
A potentially good premise goes awry
16 October 2016 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

As the silent era came to a close, Harry Langdon's career was already in trouble. While making features for First National he fired key members of his creative team; subsequently—and consequently—the quality of his work declined. After several flops, the studio dropped him in 1928. He was at loose ends as the talkie revolution erupted, and was presumably grateful when producer Hal Roach signed him to make two- reel comedies with full sound. Unfortunately, Langdon's first two shorts for the studio are unavailable for reappraisal, as their soundtracks are missing. Skirt Shy is his earliest surviving talkie comedy, and it offers ample evidence that adapting Langdon's offbeat comic style to the demands of sound presented formidable difficulties. After a promising start and several amusing gags, this comedy falls apart midway and never recovers.

The premise is quickly established in the opening sequence. Dobbs the butler (Harry) and Nancy the maid (adorable Nancy Dover) are servants in the household of Maggie Herring (May Wallace), who appears to be a well-off dowager. Actually, her house is heavily mortgaged, and is on the verge of foreclosure. Maggie's last hope is marriage to her wealthy, elderly suitor Edgar (Tom Ricketts), who courts her ardently, and yet is too bashful to pop the question. On the very day her mortgage payment is due he once again fails to propose; so Maggie departs to plead with her creditors for more time. But Edgar returns, and the butler and maid must somehow detain him until Maggie gets back from the bank. Oddly enough, Nancy decides the best course of action is for Harry to dress in drag and impersonate his mistress, in hopes that the near-sighted Edgar won't know the difference.

That's the set-up. Sure it's silly, but it's a perfectly good premise for farce comedy, as long as viewers are willing to suspend disbelief and accept the notion that the old man can't tell the difference between a guy in drag, and the lady he was courting just minutes earlier. But the premise goes off the rails almost immediately. Harry makes no effort to disguise his voice, and leaps about nervously, scaring the cat, breaking a vase, etc., in a way that would signal anyone who is even semi-conscious that he's not the person he pretends to be. And yet Edgar falls for it, so we can only assume he's not the brightest bulb on the tree.

As if this wasn't already a stretch, a new wrinkle is introduced. A second suitor shows up, a physically imposing, aging cowboy who wears six-shooters on his hips. He's an old beau of Maggie's who hasn't seen her in twenty years, who has shown up out of nowhere—or Texas, perhaps —determined to marry her, and eager to fight off any "galoot" who tries to stop him. How do we know this? Because he announces it all to the mailman! (The cowboy is played by Arthur Thalasso, who in happier days played opposite Harry in his best feature, The Strong Man.) This guy takes one look at Harry in drag, instantly accepts him as Maggie, and pleads his love. Now the filmmakers have pushed credibility way past the snapping point. We're expected to accept this ridiculous twist as a set-up for the extended battle between the cowboy, the old man, and Harry, which takes up the rest of the film.

During this finale, despite the preponderance of lame slapstick gags, Harry manages to sneak in a couple of quiet, characteristic solo routines: first, when he struggles with a pair of boxing gloves snagged on a branch, and next, when, much to his surprise, pieces of fruit miraculously fall into his outstretched hand, one after another. Those moments are brief reminders of the quirky brand of comedy that made him famous in the first place. Unfortunately however, much of this film's climax consists of the kind of tiresome, violent shtick we expect from lesser comedians, not Langdon. Following the release of Skirt Shy, Langdon made several more talkie comedies for Roach, and happily, they got better.


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