Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, March 20, 2008
      ( 3/20/2008 06:34:00 PM ) Bill S.  


LIBEL & TROUBLE: With so much television still in post-strike rerun mode, we've been watching a lotta DVRed stuff from TCM lately. The last two nights, in fact, were devoted to old movie comedies: 1936's Libeled Lady, which I remembered seeing years ago and liking, and 1932's Movie Crazy, Harold Lloyd's first sound film. Lady, featuring the always watchable William Powell and Myrna Loy (with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow in somewhat supporting roles), is a blithely cynical screwball comedy set in the newspaper world. The plot centers on down-on-his-luck reporter Powell's attempts to set Loy's heiress up in a phony scandal so that she'll drop a libel suit against editor Tracy's paper. An amusing film, even if its writers never quite figure out how to end the darn thing.

Harold Lloyd (along with writer/director Clyde Bruckman) has no difficulty concluding Crazy, which concerns his hero's attempts at breaking into Hollywood movies: he simply ends with our hero, Harold "Trouble" Hall, and heroine Mary (Constance Cummings) beaming triumphantly at us through a broken window. As an early talkie, the film doesn't have much to recommend itself dialog-wise (the snappy patter of a Libeled Lady is way beyond its reach), but there are plenty of funny physical set-pieces, the highlight being a movie set fight between Lloyd and his acting/romantic rival Kenneth Thomson. If some of the movie's other gags were recycled by Bruckman for later Three Stooges shorts, its climactic fight scene is something that could only have been handled by the athletic Lloyd. (That and a very funny bit where our hero chases a shoe down the street.) Definitely worth checking out if TCM reruns it, though I still prefer Lloyd's silent comedies.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



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