Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Milky Way (1936)

Harold Lloyd was one of the biggest stars of the silent era.  While his movies were not individually as successful as those of Charlie Chaplin, he was much more prolific, which made him the higher-earner overall.  His short films were still being played on British TV (on BBC2) into the early 80s, which is where I was introduced to his work.

The Milky Way is not a silent film however, but a talkie.  Lloyd made a more successful transition to sound films than many silent stars, and this particular movie had the best critical reception of all his post-silent era work.  So it should be pretty good, right?

Well actually, yes.  It's pretty good.  I think the opening act is the best part of the film, and it does sag a bit around the one hour mark, but it has a strong start and it recovers pretty well in the last ten minutes, with some gloriously over-the-top coincidences combining to ensure a happy ending.  I'm not usually one to welcome overly contrived circumstances in scripts, but this movie commits to them so whole-heartedly (and - most importantly - sets them all up very clearly in the earlier parts of the film) that it makes it work.

Lloyd plays Burleigh, a mild-mannered milkman who stumbles into a fist-fight with a boxing champ; a fight that sees the champ KOed.  The press immediately want to know who this stunning new pugilist is, but you may have noticed that I never said it was Burleigh who knocked the champ out.

Throw in a crooked boxing promoter, an illiterate trainer and a pregnant horse and you have a recipe for what I believe they call "shenanigans".

After the painful dud that was College, I'm pleased that this second film in the set was a vast improvement.  The only one left to watch now is the one I bought the set for in the first place.  Here's hoping my fond-but-25-year-old memories of it are accurate and it continues the upward trend.

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