Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Move Along - 1926

Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Norman Taurog
Writer: Norman Taurog
Stars: Lloyd Hamilton, Helen Foster and Glen Cavender
Release Date: 25 July 1926 (USA)
Production Co: Lloyd Hamilton Corporation
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Remake
Genres: Short | Comedy
This may well be the definitive Lloyd Hamilton comedy. That's not to say that Move Along is the funniest or the wildest of Ham's surviving films, but it's the one that best conveys his screen persona: a Born Loser who tries to cope but is thwarted at every turn, a well-meaning guy trapped in a world full of hostile cops, grasping landladies, and passersby on the street who look at him and laugh for unknown reasons. Hamilton's work doesn't suit all tastes. There's a strong element of melancholy just under the surface—in fact, in this particular film the melancholia isn't hidden at all, it's right out in the open—but he was a droll performer who is a pleasure to watch, even when his screen alter ego suffers through one calamity after another. Hamilton had a rich comic imagination, and his films are full of clever gags that were often "borrowed" by other comedians subsequently, but his films can be surprisingly sad and disturbing for two-reel comedies. You laugh while watching this guy have the worst day of his life, over and over again.
Move Along begins with an introductory shot of our star that Harold Lloyd would rework in his talkie feature Movie Crazy in 1932: Ham (whose character name is Walter Rawleigh here, for some reason) appears to be riding in the back of a limo, chatting amiably with a prosperous-looking gent in a top hat, but a long shot reveals that he is riding alongside the limo in a humble horse-drawn cart. When the cart hits a bump he's dumped into a puddle. It's soon clear that Walter is broke and hungry, but he's no bum: when he sees that jobs are available at the employment office he quickly gets in line. When a young woman comes along who looks even more desperate than he is, however, Walter gallantly offers her his place in line, and thus assures that she will get work while he is left out in the cold. The young woman seems to be the only friendly person in the universe, and offers him sincere thanks for his sacrifice. But Walter can't pause to savor the moment, for a brutal cop keeps after him, clubbing him repeatedly and barking "Move on!"
No sooner does Walter return to his seedy apartment and flop on the bed but the landlady barges in and demands the rent. Told that he can't pay, she enlists the help of two burly men who roll Walter (still on his bed) outside and fling his meager belongings after him. Undaunted, Walter establishes a residence of sorts on the sidewalk, under the awning of a dry goods store that is closed for the night. When it begins to rain he manages to deal with that, and when the rain turns to snow he deals with that, too. Move Along turns increasingly surreal in this final section, as Walter sets up housekeeping in public with the girl from the employment office. The gags become cartoon-y as the atmosphere turns dreamlike, and we're not too surprised when Walter's reverie turns out to be a dream after all, rudely disrupted by that cop with his billy-club.
From this bare description the film may sound unrelentingly bleak. Thanks to Hamilton's fertile comic creativity there are steady laughs throughout, but there's no getting around the fact that the laughs punctuate a story that is harsh and depressing. This was the Lloyd Hamilton style, to find humor in the dark side of life, but I can see why he's not everyone's cup of tea. Ham was a comedian, but he was not a merry soul. It may be significant that, around the time Move Along was made, Hamilton's messy personal life was tipping out of control. He would soon get into serious difficulties that would precipitate a steep and irrevocable decline. This short was produced at the pinnacle of Hamilton's career, just prior to that downward slide, and stands as a testament to his talent and to his Sad Clown screen persona.
Remake of The Vagrant (1921).

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