Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ruth Chatterton and Harold Lloyd

Ruth Chatterton, "Female," 1933.

Ruth Chatterton was a star of the late 1920s and early 1930s, often appearing in risque roles as strong, independent women.  In "Dodsworth" (1936) she stars opposite Walter Huston as a vain wife unwilling to accept her age; she takes advantage of a European trip with her retired, wealthy husband (Huston) to have affairs with other men, looking for an upgrade in social status by maybe marrying a count.  I think her character is a little shallow and intentionally unsympathetic.  We could have felt more for a middle aged woman who finally gets to break free from mid-western mores; instead she's drawn simply as a cheating wife.  But she's still great in the role.

In "Female" (1933) she plays a more complicated character; this time as head of an auto firm (in "Dodsworth" it was her husband's company!).  She's unmarried and can't seem to find the right man.  They are all either too simpleminded or too fawning.  When she finally meets her match, it's a man who is unwilling to play second fiddle to such a strong woman.  Unfortunately the Hollywood pattern required her character to ultimately succumb to his demands, willing to get married and let HIM run the company while she has the kids.  Later on I think she might have instead forged some kind of compromise, maybe running the company and getting married at the same time, but in this film, so close to the institution of the Production Code, perhaps the studio played it too safe. 
Harold Lloyd, "The Freshman," 1925.
I almost did a sketch of Harold in his trademark straw hat, cocked at an angle.  But I liked the way he looked in the leather helmet.  This is the part of the film where he tries out for the football team, repeatedly kicking the ball over his own head.  With "Safety Last!" (1923), "The Freshman" (1925) is Lloyd's other masterpiece of silent slapstick.  I think I got his glasses just right . . .

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