17 October 2004 | wmorrow59
The cat sequence alone is worth the price of admission
Lloyd Hamilton, the star of this two-reeler, is almost forgotten today, but after seeing his work in Careful Please and a few other silent comedies I can only hope that more of his films are found, restored, and made available to the public. He was a gifted, unusual comedian whose movies deserve to be better known.
For those who haven't seen him, Lloyd "Ham" Hamilton was a large man with oddly prissy mannerisms. He had the semi-flattened features of a boxer, but could twist his highly expressive face into comical looks of dismay, disdain, and disapproval. He walked with a distinctive waddle (apparently the result of a broken leg sustained on the set of one of his early films) and wore a flat cloth cap. Hamilton's basic persona was that of a hapless loser who always seems to be having the worst day of his life. His comedies-- at least the ones I've seen --ramble from sequence to sequence without much concern for narrative coherence or character motivation, but he didn't seem to care so why should we? The gags in Hamilton's films are often clever and surprising, and even the "borrowed" routines are performed with vigor.
In Careful Please the sissified Hamilton plays a bill collector working in a tough neighborhood. How tough is it? It's so tough that babies sharpen straight razors on leather strops in their cribs. It's so tough that the first bill collector who arrives at the apartment of deadbeat tough guy Tim Riley is simply hurled out the window. Riley doesn't want to pay up, and doesn't want to see his furniture repossessed, either. Our hero is the second bill collector to arrive at Riley's apartment, but Ham proves to be more resourceful than he looks, managing not only to triumph over Riley but also to rescue the young socialite Riley and his wife are holding for ransom. (Very little is made of this kidnapping subplot, strangely enough. In fact it barely qualifies as a "subplot" and seems like more of a passing whim on the screenwriters' part.)
The rescued socialite instantly falls for our boy and invites him to her palatial home. Their scene together there is the film's comic highpoint, as Ham assumes the hoity-toity manners he believes are expected of him. The maid serves him miniature sandwiches with tiny fish in them, and one by one the fish fall out of the sandwiches and into his suit. Needless to say there are several kittens on the premises, and within minutes they're climbing all over Ham trying to find the fish in his clothing. His expressions are priceless. Another nice moment comes when the young lady makes it clear that she expects some love-making, so Ham manfully swigs a big glass of milk before embracing her. I also enjoyed the dialog title assigned to the young lady moments later when her jealous guardian returns: "Great heavens! It's my jealous guardian!"
Various complications ensue, and before long it's time for a thrill sequence: Ham finds himself in a car that is being lifted high into the air by workmen who believe they are hoisting a piano or something. Honestly I don't know exactly what's supposed to be happening by that point, but it's funny. By the time of the final fade-out gag I knew I wanted to see more Lloyd Hamilton comedies. Unfortunately much of the man's prime output from the 1920s was destroyed in a vault fire, but there are survivors. Careful Please, for one, ranks as one of the more enjoyable short comedies from a comedy-rich era.