Harry Langdon was the baby-faced hero who had a mix of Keaton’s stoicisim, Lloyd’s optimism and Chaplin’s trousers… Langdon had his own pace though and one quite different from the rest… Timing, as we all know, is the essence of “funny” and all the comedy acts had to have it. A daft thing happens, they look into camera, at each other, into the middle distance… and then the after-effect: a fall, a slap, a hit with a brick or nothing at all… Laughter comes out of the silver shadows and the audience response is entirely down to the skills of the performer: the difference between comic or not being a complex equation involving motion, emotion and empathy.
|Harry's poster girl|
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp sees Harry as the son of a one-shop shoe-maker (Alec B Francis) who is on the brink of being driven out of business by bigger, more ruthless competitors. He needs $25,000 and has only a few weeks to get it and a son high on romantic ideals but low in useful application. The scene is set almost instantly: how will this drowsy-eyed, soft-lad ever come to the rescue?
|Father seeks help from son...|
|When shoe-makers collide: Logan vs Burton|
|Betty decides Harry can compete...|
Staring up at her picture – when, frankly, he should be making plans – he is amazed to find Betty right behind him. Incredibly there’s an instant bond between the two and a short-hand romance that takes flight with a glance, a trip and the kindest of words. Almost as if the audience need to be reassured about the love story before Harry can really set about the business of comedy…
|Girl looks at boy looking at girl|
His father follows events by means of newsreels at his local picture house – a reminder of how much cinema was plugged into people’s lives by this point: never mind the rolling news broadcasts, the people of the twenties had picture news.
Events proceed as you’d expect and the ending coda shows Betty and Harry married and secure with a new baby who, naturally, looks very much like his dad… they couldn’t resist: who needs a baby when you have Baby Face?
It’s in that odd face where Langdon’s secret lies: he never tires and bumbles through in a freeform way until finally faced with the impossible, he triumphs be it a cyclone or a big bully of a champion-walker-landlord! We should all be so lucky.
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp is available on a Kino DVD along with two other features: excellent value and a reminder of Landgon’s high-point. He may not have had the longevity of The Crucial Three but he had the hilarity.
*Probably best to reclassify these players as comedic romantic leads… and Roscoe Arbuckle is certainly up there with Mabel Normand too…