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Run, Girl, Run

Ring a Ding Ding

When trying to work my way through the lists of movies in which my favorite stars appear, I find myself unendingly frustrated by the often extensive number of pictures made before 1929, ie. the silent era. Silent films, although regularly featured on TCM, nevertheless are low on the priority list in terms of availability to the public. Even worse are the silent shorts, which stars like Carole Lombard tallied up quickly in the early days of filmmaking. TCM thankfully came through for me in playing that star’s Run, Girl, Run, 30-minute short she made under producer Mack Sennett. Lombard was a part of his company and learned the ways of comedy under his tutelage. Read more about it at

Lombard, with her glorious good looks, plays here as she often did, the pretty girl with a boyfriend. She attends a girls’ boarding school that focuses on athletics, particularly track and field, and might be the star runner among her other lofty titles. Despite being in the glamorous role, Lombard still manages to solicit some laugh from us, but the majority of comedy credit lies with costar Daphne Pollard as the coach.

Pollard is short and small but makes clear to the audience right off that she is not one to be trifled with. The actress uses great physical comedy to elicit the majority of the movie’s laughs, such as when running toward a hurdle her sweater inches its way down until it has the effect of a potato sack.

After an initial scene of the girl athletes training, evening arrives and Lombard’s Norma attempts to sneak out to meet her sweetheart. The coach catches her in the hall, brings the young woman into her room, and after some arguing, strips the girl and puts her to bed. To ensure she will not escape to the beau outside, the coach holds Norma’s hand as they fall asleep. The boyfriend, however, helps Norma to replace her hand with an inflated rubber glove, which has the coach duped until the dean awakes her.

Following the night’s shenanigans, the girls face a rival school and the coach feels the pressure of the dean’s threat to fire her if the team loses. Norma narrowly loses one race because she powders her nose en route but pulls through in the end.

I find that photographs of Lombard from early in her career often do not look like the woman we came to know through the talking picture days. That is also the case in Run, Girl, Run, which required some eye squinting to determine the lead was in fact Lombard. Although the picture shown on TCM had new intertitles, the actual film was of a fair quality also hindering my ability to make a positive ID.

Run, Girl, Run was a fun movie even if Lombard wasn’t the best part. I like it better than Matchmaking Mama that had enough other characters for Lombard to get a bit lost on screen.

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Matchmaking Mama

Ring a Ding Ding

Matchmaking Mama (1929)

Carole Lombard made probably just as many or more silent movies and shorts as she did talkies, but unfortunately, the hilarity in Matchmaking Mama has nothing to do with her role. This short subject features Lombard as a socialite with an eye for men, any men. Her mother (Daphne Pollard) has her sights set on Larry (Matty Kemp) as a suitable husband for daughter Phyllis, who is also cast in a play that requires he kiss the young woman.

As rehearsals for this musical play go on at the home of matchmaking mother Cornelia McNitt, her husband bungles about and is clearly not at home in his house, which is run by tyrannical Cornelia. When Cornelia learns via telegram that her husband’s daughter is coming to visit from the convent she attends, the tiny woman is livid.

In a case of mistaken identity, Phyllis sends Larry to the kitchen to have the maid sew up a tear in his trousers. When he enters the room, however, he comes upon Sally McNitt (Sally Eilers), having just arrived from the convent, who is trying to pull a smoking pan from the oven using her skirt as oven mitts. The man is entranced by her legs, but being a very modest girl, Sally scurries about trying to figure out how to put the pan down without further exposing herself.

The two fall instantly in love, but a scene later, Larry spies Sally on her father’s lap kissing him, and mistakes the man for her sweetheart. That confusion is cleared up but when Cornelia learns of the romance, she tells Sally that Larry is engaged to Phyllis and is a horrible flirt. This leads Sally to cast the man off and both parties are terribly unhappy.

Pollard even without sound plays an intolerable small woman with the fury of someone twice her size. We can see easily from her interactions with others how dominant she is, and the witty dialogue of the intertitles does wonders for this comedy. You can see her at her vocal best in Laurel and Hardy’s Our Relations. The story is adorable and romantic; I only regret Lombard was not featured more prominently. Her glamorous side was certainly played up over her comedic possibilities. Matchmaking Mama also features a scene photographed in color. Technicolor made possible a limited dance routine scene that features a bunch of young women in green and red hues.

Our Relations

Gasser

Our Relations (1936)

     With every Laurel and Hardy movie or short I watch, I warm more to their humor. Our Relations would be my favorite thus far and is just a riot of misunderstandings.

     Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy open the film at the dinner table with their wives. The two are best friends and when the women are away discuss their twin brothers, which Ollie’s mother writes have been executed after getting into trouble at sea. The rest of the film centers more around those relatives –Alf Laurel and Bert Hardy– and the trouble they create. It turns out that part of the families is in fact not dead, but still working on a boat. They have docked in the same town as their brothers but will not run into them until the film’s close. In the meantime, a shipmate has convinced the men to hand over all but $1 of their salary for him to “save and invest”. The bumbling duo is also tasked with picking up and delivering a package for the captain that turns out to be a rather large pearl ring. While at a restaurant, two young women notice the ring and assume the chaps are loaded, so when the couples join up for a meal, the gals order everything on the menu.

     Alf and Bert have already annoyed the restaurant waiter (Alan Hale) so when they attempt to leave to “get a change of clothes” and their money, the waiter requires them to leave collateral, so they offer up the ring. When they find the shipmate who is keeping their dough, Finn (James Finlayson), he refuses to give the money back … which leads to the stealing/hocking of Finn’s clothes … which progresses to the loaning of Alf and Bert’s clothes back to Finn … which leads to the men wandering about in sheets and towel turbans. I could go on for a while explaining the plot but it only gets more complicated. Eventually the paths of the twins overlap with Stan and Ollie and their wives suspect they’ve cheated on them with the two restaurant dames. The waiter is also taking things out on the wrong Laurel and Hardy, and the pearl ring is being handed off to all the wrong people.

     The first really funny moment for me was when Alf and Bert are initially in the restaurant. In order to talk over their money situation privately, they head for a phone booth. After squeezing in together to chat, the phone rings and a drunk chap carrying armfuls of goods also presses into the small box. Faces are smashed against the glass, Laurel is stepped on and milk is spilt on the men’s heads. Finally, the booth tips over and shatters with the drunk fellow never able to properly hold a conversation with his wife at the other end of the line. The scene was humor without words and really great.

     One scene toward the end has both sets of Laurel and Hardy in the same restaurant. Confusing interaction between the pairs has them mispaired at one point and the viewer starts to question who is who. The movie magic techniques used to place double the Laurel and double the Hardy in one scene at the same time is done in multiple ways. At this restaurant, obvious back projection has one set of protagonists walking behind the other two sitting at a table and vice versa. Other scenes involve body doubles, editing that switches back and forth between the pairs without showing them at the same time, and finally a split screen technique where the respective twins walk side by side without crossing the center line.

     I do not recall Hardy ever visually addressing the camera in Our Relations as he often did to share with the audience his frustration over whatever Laurel was putting him through. In this movie, the two are essentially in the same boat at all times with Laurel being only slightly dimmer than his companion.

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