MOVIE CRAZY, 1932
Harold Hall, an accident prone young man with little or no acting ability, desperately wants to be in pictures. After a mix-up with his application photograph, he gets an offer to have a screen-test, and goes off to Hollywood. At the studio, he does everything wrong and causes all sorts of trouble. But he catches the fancy of a beautiful actress, and eventually the studio owner recognizes him as a comic genius.
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Of course the real Harold Lloyd was a movie star but in "Movie Crazy" (1932) Lloyd plays Harold Hall, a young innocent man who dreams of one day acting in movies while his parents (Dewitt Jennings and Lucy Beaumont) watch on disapprovingly. Harold should stop wasting his time and do something constructive with his life.
But Harold has a plan. After reading a gossip movie magazine he comes across an ad. Hollywood is looking for new faces. People are encouraged to send in head shots along with a letter. Harold sees this as his big chance to find fame and to prove his parents wrong.
This set-up is, well, lets not beat around the bush, it was directly taken from the Mabel Normand silent comedy "The Extra Girl" (1923). Both involve a mix-up with head shots as a photo Harold had of himself is accidentally knocked off a table causing Harold to accidentally send another photo of a better looking man.
I was luke-warm to "The Extra Girl" and Normand's style of comedy. But I prefer "Movie Crazy". Neither film becomes a direct spoof on the industry, which I would have liked, but "Movie Crazy" does have better gags for Lloyd to work with. My problem with "The Extra Girl" and Normand was she didn't seem to be doing anything. There weren't enough set pieces for her. "Movie Crazy" puts Harold in very funny situations as it becomes something of a romantic screwball comedy.
One of the writers on the film, (besides Bruckman and Lloyd) was Felix Adler. He too was an old comedy pro. Adler wrote several scripts for Laurel & Hardy including one of my favorites "Way Out West", "Saps at Sea", "A Chump at Oxford" and wrote Lloyd's previous talking comedies as well, "Danger" and "Feet".
In "Movie Crazy" Lloyd does have some very good visual gags. The film's opening has a clever piece between Lloyd, a car and a bike. I won't spoil it but it reminds me very much of the opening of "Safety Last" in the sense we are set to believe one thing only to find it is the opposite. The gag in "Movie Crazy" takes us back to the silent era.
Another set-piece and probably the best, it takes up the most running time, is at a dinner party. Harold, mistakenly, thinks he has been invited, while in the restroom, he gets his coat mixed up with a magician, who has various, shall we say, "tricks" up his sleeve. Harold proceeds to the dance floor and becomes very surprised at his coat.
Harold had another problem with his coat in his silent film "The Freshman" (1925) when a tailor wasn't finished sewing his coat, Lloyd goes into a panic afraid he would be late for a party. So he brings the tailor along as the suit falls apart. It clearly must have been the inspiration for the "Movie Crazy" sequence.
Co-starring with Lloyd here is Constance Cummings. An attractive actress whom sadly never really found the fame she was looking for in Hollywood. "Movie Crazy" is one of the highlights of her Hollywood days (she later moved to England where she found more success. She appeared in the Noel Coward/David Lean collaboration of "Blithe Spirit"). Here she plays Mary Sears, an actress working on a picture where she plays a Spanish lady. She is the first person Harold sees when he arrives in Hollywood. For him it is love at first sight. She doesn't remember who he is.
The two meet again only this time Mary is not in costume. Harold doesn't recognize her. And thus treats her differently. In fact he is not impressed by her looks at all. Mary is bewildered by this. Usually men make advances at her every five minutes. What's Harold problem? But Harold is waiting for the Spanish lady to come his way. Once Mary soon figures out what is going on, she has some fun with the situation. This is the romantic comedy aspect of the film.
Interfering in all of this is Mary's co-star in the film within the film Vance (Kenneth Thomson). A drunk who thinks their on-screen romance should be off-screen as well. If he can't have Mary no one can, including Harold.
"Movie Crazy" while really is just a collection of comedy sequences rolled into a movie, has a nice pace to it and does keep a narrative storyline moving along. It doesn't have a strong beginning, middle and end and not really much of a conflict but this is a comedy. It's main objective is to make us laugh. And "Movie Crazy" does have enough funny sequences to make us laugh.
Viewers should keep their eyes open during the dinner party scene and spot distinguished screen drunk Arthur Housman.