Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

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Saint-Just

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 07, 2017 8:41 am

JLNeibaur wrote: Is Harry Langdon the equal of Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd?


No. Not even close.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 07, 2017 11:05 am

Apples are better than oranges!

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 07, 2017 8:46 pm

Saint-Just wrote:
JLNeibaur wrote:Is Harry Langdon the equal of Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd?


No. Not even close.


Out of all the silent clowns, he's one of the closest, if not, the closest.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 08, 2017 12:38 pm

boblipton wrote:Apples are better than oranges!

Bob


Langdon is one very spotty apple.
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Smari1989

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 08, 2017 1:12 pm

Spotty, perhaps (just perhaps), but irrevocably fascinating. Methinks.

And pretty damn funny besides.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 08, 2017 6:24 pm

Saint-Just wrote:
JLNeibaur wrote: Is Harry Langdon the equal of Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd?


No. Not even close.


So much of this IS taste; but here, I agree.
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boblipton

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 08, 2017 6:31 pm

I'm not saying my taste is that Langdon is as consistently funny as Chaplin, Keaton or Lloyd. I'm saying that, as Saint-Just remarks, this is a matter of taste, and I don't condemn people whose taste differs from mine -- unless their taste is stupid.

Bob
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 7:48 am

I don't like giving all the credit to Frank Capra but the Capra Langdon films were fantastic. That said, to give Capra all the credit would be to say he could've made a hit with a ham sandwich which is definitely not fair to Langdon.

Basically I think Langdon was great with the right direction. He wasn't the independent genius like Chaplin or Keaton (or the collaborative genius of Lloyd.)
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 9:14 am

Well-writ - and I think astute.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 9:29 am

Langdon may have benefited more from some guidance/direction than the other 3 in general, but as has been pointed out many times, Arthur Ripley & Harry Edwards were far more important to Langdon in this regard than Capra, without question. This is not to say that Capra had no impact at all, or that he didn't do a fine job with THE STRONG MAN; he did.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 9:56 am

Battra92 wrote:I don't like giving all the credit to Frank Capra but the Capra Langdon films were fantastic. That said, to give Capra all the credit would be to say he could've made a hit with a ham sandwich which is definitely not fair to Langdon.

Basically I think Langdon was great with the right direction. He wasn't the independent genius like Chaplin or Keaton (or the collaborative genius of Lloyd.)


I've become kind of a contrarian on Langdon. The Capra films are my least favorite--creepy and annoying. Langdon's Sennett shorts are fine and his post-Capra silents are weird but have their interesting points. I actually prefer him in talkies. He has a perfect voice for his character, and once you hear his nonsensical patter, you can see that he's doing it in the silents too. And somehow the voice seems to make him less creepy, which he's always verging on even in the best of his silents.

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Mike Gebert

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 10:15 am

It's interesting that old habits die so hard— even in a thread that's called Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians, we still wrestle with the question of whether Langdon belongs with the so-called big three.

Again, my point in the original article is that Agee skewed us to look at feature comedians. Which to some extent means looking at the comics whose talents lent themselves best to full-length stories; it also means comedians of the 1920s, since features barely existed in this genre until then.

But far more of comedy was in shorts, for longer, and while the big money may have been in being a feature star, plenty of comics were satisfied working in shorts, in vaudeville, in circuses, in silent and sound shorts, on radio... there were any number of choices out there for a career making people laugh and they weren't sitting there going, "How can I make sure I get into Andrew Sarris's Pantheon by making features?" Or, "How can I make people laugh in 100 years?" for that matter.

I really feel like the idea of silent comedy has been so deformed by Agee's desire to create a Mount Rushmore set of four, mostly for his own purposes of bashing his present day. But that's not how the field shaped itself in the day. Langdon was Langdon; he doesn't have to be measured against John, Paul and George, because they weren't in a band together.

Also, Langdon's best film is definitely Tramp Tramp Tramp, not The Strong Man which really isn't that funny.
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Smashing Pumpkins' Pantheon of Tragedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 1:03 pm

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radiotelefonia

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 1:15 pm

I don't need to smash anything. I enjoy a good laugh when something is funny, even in versions like this one that I used to see a lot on TV when I was a child up to 1981.

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 1:57 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Again, my point in the original article is that Agee skewed us to look at feature comedians. Which to some extent means looking at the comics whose talents lent themselves best to full-length stories; it also means comedians of the 1920s, since features barely existed in this genre until then.


One other thing about this is that it seems to only be comedians of the slapstick variety. A film like The Patsy (with Marion Davies) or Ella Cinders (with Colleen Moore and a cameo by poor Mr. Langdon) are never considered when we think of silent comedies, yet I don't know what else to call those pictures except silent comedies. My wife (who is not a very big fan of silents, I'm afraid) laughed a lot at The Patsy and said it was a really fun picture. Why are those types of films always excluded when we think of comedy from that era?
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 2:16 pm

QUOTE:
Battra92 wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:Again, my point in the original article is that Agee skewed us to look at feature comedians. Which to some extent means looking at the comics whose talents lent themselves best to full-length stories; it also means comedians of the 1920s, since features barely existed in this genre until then.


One other thing about this is that it seems to only be comedians of the slapstick variety. A film like The Patsy (with Marion Davies) or Ella Cinders (with Colleen Moore and a cameo by poor Mr. Langdon) are never considered when we think of silent comedies, yet I don't know what else to call those pictures except silent comedies. My wife (who is not a very big fan of silents, I'm afraid) laughed a lot at The Patsy and said it was a really fun picture. Why are those types of films always excluded when we think of comedy from that era?


Good question.
Historically, there has been a tendency --or rather, it's been the norm-- to separate the "slapstick" and the "light" comedians/comediennes, and none of the "light" performers (rightly or wrongly) have survived nearly as well as icons as the top slapstick comedians (Chaplin Keaton Lloyd Langdon). I'm not saying it oughta be that way, though; for one thing, the general oversight of Davies, Moore etc has contributed to the annoying misconception among modern viewers that silent comedy was all about "slapstick" (I've tried to explain to people that was not the case, more than once), and secondly, the line between slapstick and so-called "genteel" humor can be blurry indeed. The difference may be fairly evident if we're dealing with BANGVILLE POLICE versus MY BEST GIRL, but less so in, say, Max Linder's SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 7:41 pm

greta de groat wrote:And somehow the voice seems to make him less creepy, which he's always verging on even in the best of his silents.

greta


(Respectful) disagreement here, greta. When I saw my first Talkie Langdon stuff, the Creep (thank you, Peter Lorre!) factor increased diametrically.

His 50 year old babyman-with-sexuality was as unsettling for me as Jerry Lewis's was.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostThu May 11, 2017 9:36 pm

wich2 wrote:
greta de groat wrote:And somehow the voice seems to make him less creepy, which he's always verging on even in the best of his silents.

greta


(Respectful) disagreement here, greta. When I saw my first Talkie Langdon stuff, the Creep (thank you, Peter Lorre!) factor increased diametrically.

His 50 year old babyman-with-sexuality was as unsettling for me as Jerry Lewis's was.


Interesting how we all react differently to the same things. I was amused to see that this thread had gone on so long that i had already made a similar post on Langdon, only i mentioned that i actually liked The Chaser, which everyone else hates!

Langdon is certainly original, but i really find Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase funnier. A pantheon is a silly idea, though.

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostFri May 12, 2017 4:42 pm

I actually find Langdon's comic persona more compelling than Chaplin's. Now, don't misunderstand me as *disliking* Chaplin -- I just think Langdon's characters and their unusual methods of navigating the world (or inability to do the same) are funnier and more interesting than the Tramp's situations.

I'm another one who puts The Strong Man and Long Pants on a somewhat lower rung than the other extant FN features, although all of them have their points. The Strong Man already has signs of Capra-esque didacticism in the good-small-town-folks vs. immoral-big-city-boozers subplot, and I do wish these scenes were done with a little more irony.

I think Langdon's talkie work is fine, and I laughed at many moments in the Roach films.

-HA
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSat May 13, 2017 10:56 am

I gave Langdon's two self directed films another shot last night - the premise of The Chaser was alright but very clumsily handled and I rather find the whole film a loss. Three's A Crowd just flat out put me to sleep. Tramp Tramp Tramp and The Strong Man get repeat viewings from me but not Long Pants or the vast majority of the Sennett shorts, which are true Sennett shoddy and mostly could have been made with anyone else in the lead role. So Langdon for me is in a niche below Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Laurel & Hardy and above the Larry Semon/Billy Bevan-type rabble.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSat May 13, 2017 11:20 am

Battra92 wrote:I don't like giving all the credit to Frank Capra but the Capra Langdon films were fantastic. That said, to give Capra all the credit would be to say he could've made a hit with a ham sandwich which is definitely not fair to Langdon.

Basically I think Langdon was great with the right direction. He wasn't the independent genius like Chaplin or Keaton (or the collaborative genius of Lloyd.)


Actually, Capra DID make a hit with a ham sandwich: THAT CERTAIN THING!

Mike S.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSat May 13, 2017 11:30 am

Well, plot-wise many of the Sennett-Langdons could've possibly been made with just about "anyone" (that is, Billy Bevan etc) -- that may be so -- but what makes them so fascinating to me is how Langdon nonetheless manages to make them so much into his own, through his (ya gotta admit) very unique character and way of performing.

Langdon's features are a mixed bag, but every one of them have their share of fine moments/sequences, IMO, and are invariably interesting (it took a couple of viewings, but I finally realized I like HIS FIRST FLAME quite a bit, actually). That said, it's been a few years since I truly watched Langdon now, beyond an occasional short. Maybe it's time to revisit the All Day/Lobster-set.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSat May 13, 2017 11:40 am

I initially was as confused by Langdon as I was amused by his work, but when I gave it more attention, I locked into the the offbeat ideas and slower concept that he best responded to -- and I believe he was the creative one central to all of the ideas, while Edwards, Ripley, or Capra just supported his vision.

When I wrote a book on the Langdon silents several years ago, I actually studied the films and became even more impressed with his ideas and their execution. I think Three's a Crowd and The Chaser are remarkable films, but I understand that they are not for all tastes.

Perhaps if Harry Langdon had been left alone to experiment more with the cinematic process once he started directing his own films, he might have expanded his audience to include more of the mainstream. But talking pictures came crashing down and we don't have access to his final self-directed feature

While I understand whatever case can be made for the likes of Arbuckle, Laurel, Griffith, Semon, et. al., as so many silent screen comedians are unique and interesting, I really believe that if anyone deserves the lofty status alongside Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd, it would be Harry Langdon.

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSat May 13, 2017 12:40 pm

Yes, well, in fairness I should add that my own appreciation of Langdon hasn't been steady at all times. I loved him when I first watched him, in excerpts, through Robert Youngson's compilations -- but as I got to see THE STRONG MAN, TRAMPx3 and LONG PANTS, I felt somewhat less taken (though still fascinated) for a while. What really got me onto Harry again was the release of All Day/Lobster's DVD set; watching his development on film chronologically was a revelation, and made him into a personal favorite once again (even more so than the first time around).

I've said before that, as a *film-maker,* I don't think Langdon proved himself outstanding on the level that Chaplin, Keaton & Lloyd did. A number of circumstances may have caused 3'S A CROWD & THE CHASER to end up as the flawed (though far from awful) films they became, but in hindsight it seems evident, at least, that Langdon wasn't ready to become a director of features at the time he did. As a *performer,* on the other hand, he's right up there, without question -- his character is probably the most fascinating of all alongside Chaplin & Keaton's.

In Michael Tisserand's recent (and vast) biography of Krazy Kat-cartoonist George Herriman, the author makes a good case that Krazy (the character) shares many similarities with the Tramp. Come to think of it, there's very arguably a resemblance to be found between Harry & Krazy as well, though this is certainly coincidental (as Langdon made his first film over 10 years after Krazy's birth).
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 14, 2017 8:33 am

Langdon was a terrible director - his choices as a director were frequently arbitrary with no sense or logic behind them.
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 14, 2017 12:53 pm

*Sigh* ... To get the definitive word on Langdon, all you have to do is read what I wrote about him in my book The 100 Greatest Silent Comedians, and/or the new book being released tomorrow, 100 Essential Silent Film Comedies (www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_0? ... Caps%2C444), in which I write about Tramp Tramp Tramp, All Night Long, and Saturday Afternoon.

What's more, I treat 30-seconds-long 1896 comedies and two-reel 1915 comedies and 1928 feature comedies with the same fairness and respect ... quite probably the first time a comprehensive best-of list didn't segregate shorts from features.

You requested. It has been done. Enjoy!

Jim
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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostSun May 14, 2017 2:18 pm

I certainly disagree with the idea that Harry Langdon was “a terrible director.” Take, for instance, the scene in THREE’S A CROWD where Harry tries to soothe the crying infant during a thunderstorm so his ailing mother can sleep and regain her strength. Harry has fittingly built a rocking cradle that is just large enough for him to lie in and hold the child. The child falls asleep in Harry’s arms. Director Langdon cuts from a close-up to a medium shot with the mother in bed in the foreground on the left, while Harry with the baby in the cradle is behind her to the right. Langdon offsets the stillness of the characters with the tumult of the storm, as winds blow through the windows and forces doors to open and shut, while the dark room flickers with light. Harry’s face exhibits the same fear one would expect of a child, but since he is holding one much smaller, he must contain his own fears and protect the infant. Langdon’s choice of shots, brought to life by cinematographer Elgin Lessley, are reasoned and effective.

JN
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Saint-Just

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 15, 2017 4:54 pm

I think the horse is dead. I could compile a list of all the times and ways Langdon fails as a director, and he fails far more than he succeeds, but there's no real point.
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WISE GUYS

PostMon May 15, 2017 6:44 pm

The UK talkie he directed - which I've never seen - is allegedly
available from (sigh) these folks, but has anyone ever received a copy of this DVD from them?
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JLNeibaur

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Re: Smashing Agee's Pantheon of Comedians

PostMon May 15, 2017 8:55 pm

Saint-Just wrote:I think the horse is dead. I could compile a list of all the times and ways Langdon fails as a director, and he fails far more than he succeeds, but there's no real point.


How about just one example? That's all I offered. Not "challenging" you, per se, just interested in at least one specific example where you believe Langdon fails as a director. Thanks.

JN
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