31 July 2009 | JoeytheBrit
There's a reason Langdon isn't among the pantheon of greats
There's something about Harry Langdon that just doesn't work for me. Judging by the high marks this film has received and the uniformly positive reviews I'm clearly in the minority, but I simply can't see the appeal of this curious, borderline weird babyman. Langdon had a good sense of comic timing, there's no argument there, and with good direction from Frank Capra he clearly knew what his character was about (but only through his director's instruction, it would later transpire) and this film is even free of the over-sentimentality that so often plagued silent movies of all genres, but the fact is - his material just isn't very funny.
That's not to say there aren't any laughs in this, Langdon's first feature length comedy. There are a few: the shuffling upstairs backwards scene, the strong man act, the... erm... well, the shuffling upstairs backwards and the strong man act are about it to be honest. The meeting between Langdon's timid Belgian soldier and Mary Brown, the woman whose love letters sustained him during the Great War, is extremely well-handled, but even this scene is let down because Capra didn't seem to want to say 'cut.'