“I’ll get the money in three months if it takes a year.”
The son (Harry Langdon) of a struggling shoemaker (Alec B. Francis) enters a cross-country walking race hosted by a big-name shoe manufacturer (Edwards Davis), hoping to win the prize money as well as the heart of Davis’s daughter (Joan Crawford).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Harry Langdon Films
- Joan Crawford Films
- Silent Films
It’s been widely noted that many of the sight gags in Harry Langdon’s feature debut film are reminiscent of those in movies by his comedic peers (Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton), making this an inauspicious beginning to his all-too-brief stint in the cinematic limelight. Nonetheless, Langdon’s uniquely hapless persona lends itself well to the series of mishaps he encounters while on his cross-country journey to California: when he finds himself hanging precariously over a deep precipice, for instance, we know that the only way he’ll get out of his dilemma is — despite his best (counterproductive) efforts — through sheer, dumb luck. My favorite scene is an early one, when Langdon meets the love of his life (Crawford) in person for the first time, and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Watch for the creepy final scene, in which Langdon is allowed to make explicit fun of his “baby-face” image.
Note: Tramp, Tramp, Tramp is noteworthy for providing Joan Crawford with one of her earliest significant roles; fun use is made of her soon-to-be larger-than-life persona through her presence in a series of posters.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Langdon’s “meet-cute” with Crawford
- Several amusing sight gags
No, though it’s worth a look simply as Langdon’s first feature film.
One thought on “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926)”
A once-must (for all three titles; read on).
First viewing of all 3.
KINO Video has released ‘T,T,T’ on DVD, collected with ‘The Strong Man’ and ‘Long Pants’. Chances are, if you rent it for one title, it’s unlikely that you will not watch all three. (‘The Strong Man’ is the longest, at 75 min., and the others are roughly an hour each. Overall, it makes for a pleasant evening.)
I’ve always known of Harry Langdon but have only ever really seen his significant work now. He’s probably more like Keaton than Chaplin or Lloyd – which is no doubt why I feel a slight kinship toward him. I say ‘slight’ because I probably still prefer Keaton. However, at least in these three films, Langdon manages some very surprising and unique contributions to early silent comedy.
What’s most interesting about the experience of seeing these films back-to-back is the stream-of-consciousness feeling running through all three. The films start in one place and take you to unlikely places thereafter. Though they’re still all of-a-piece, you might think with each one at times that, while in the same movie, you have suddenly entered a different film altogether – even though each film brings you back to where you started. (This is primarily how Langdon’s films differ from Keaton’s; Keaton often embellishes a single theme but, with Langdon, theme is less important than plot mixture. It should be noted that all three films here have strong, clever writers attached to them. And you will note in each film the economy of inter-titles; much dialogue, which can be inferred, is not thrown up onto the screen.)
I admire many things about ‘The Strong Man’ as it switches scenarios. But what impresses most is the film’s extended climax: when Langdon is suddenly called-on to perform on-stage because the headliner is drunk and, ultimately, becomes responsible for the destruction of ‘Paradise’. This is where director Capra comes into play full-force – the athletic visuals are thrilling, with Langdon literally whirling through space for everything at his disposal that will help him rid Cloverdale of the menace of corruption. A terrific sequence which alone makes the film worth a view.
I’m posting in the ‘Tramp, Tramp, Tramp’ assessment because it’s my favorite of the three films. I like its particularly bizarre quality. It goes from a simple tale of a shoemaker to places you wouldn’t believe. Langdon ends up in a cross-country race (the ‘fence scene’ in this section is nothing short of astonishing) which sidelines him to chain-gang work – which, in turn, leads him to ultimately, single-handedly battling a cyclone. (The rigged sets used during the cyclone are superbly comic.) It should be noted that Joan Crawford is a bit unrecognizable simply because she’s so young. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do – in a second-fiddle sort of way – but she’s surprisingly charming, has a bit of spunk about her, and the little extra weight becomes her (she would soon become much thinner for her films in the ’30s).
On the DVD, the print for ‘Long Pants’ is not the best of the three. But, here again, we’re taken from a very simple beginning – a boy getting his first long pants (I never fully realized the implications of that: that the child would now be a man, and possibly a force to be reckoned with) – to the wild thrust into a world of temptation and murder. (The assessment points out the “homicidal” aspect of Langdon’s character – but, to me, the thought of murdering his fiancee is an arc used to serve a higher moral lesson. Significantly, note how Langdon is made to look the buffoon when he actually does try to kill his intended; and notice how much fun his fiancee is having when she thinks the whole episode is a lark.) The film is at its best when it finally does turn, more or less, into a kind of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. And Langdon learns his life lesson the hard way – but is wonderfully welcomed back ‘into the fold’.
An interesting side-note is that Langdon, unlike Keaton for the most part, has strong female co-stars in these films. Bonner (twice), Crawford and Bennett all bring something unique and significantly different to each film.
Note: It’s documented that Langdon let fame go to his head and shot himself in the foot in terms of his career. I know little about this – but, on the other hand, people barely remember Langdon today. One wonders…