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Harry Langdon … the forgotten clown (Tramp, Tramp, Tramp / The Strong Man / Long Pants) 
Written by: on November 11th, 2011

Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1926, 1927
Directors: Frank Capra, Harry Edwards
Writers: Harry Langdon, Frank Capra, Arthur Ripley, Gerald C. Duffy, Hal Conklin
Cast: Harry Langdon, Priscilla Bonner, Gertrude Astor, William V. Mong, Robert McKim, Joan Crawford

DVD released: September 2nd, 2003
Approximate running times: Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (62 minutes), The Strong Man (76 minutes), Long Pants (58 minutes)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English language intertitles
DVD Release: Kino Video
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95


This collection presents the first three feature films of silent comedian Harry Langdon. Not only that, but one features a young Joan Crawford and the other two were directed by Frank Capra.
 
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp: Harry falls in love with the girl on the billboard for Brandon shoes and enters a cross country walking race to win the prize to pay off the mortgage.  
 
This film is very episodic even though framed by the cross country race. This was typical for first features, such as Buster Keaton’s Three Ages, partly because it could be chopped into shorts if the feature was a bomb. Here Langdon plays his character as a cross between Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplain, with a Harold Lloyd daredevil scene thrown in for good measure. This is a charming and engaging feature which is helped immensely by the second billed but still rather small part for [then] virtually unknown Joan Crawford. She’s the girl on the billboard and the daughter of the president of the company.  
 
The Strong Man: Harry is a Belgian soldier who’s in love with his pen pal from the states, Mary Brown. When he comes to the U.S. as the indentured servant of a Strong Man performer, he scours every town in search for his love.

Here Langdon perfects his man-child persona in the first feature film directed by Frank Capra. Needless to say, this is the ‘strongest’ film in the collection, and actually considered to be a national treasure. It’s a mesmerizing blend of melodrama, adventure, fallen women, and pratfalls, great gags and a smashing finale. Langdon’s comedic timing is absolute perfection and his pathos is equally touching. There are lots of wild stunts that, while accomplished through obvious camera tricks, are surreal and exciting. Here Langdon realizes his own original character in the pantheon of silent clowns; due in no small measure to the writing staff and film crew.
 
Long Pants: Harry’s parents have his life all planned out right down to his marriage to the ‘girl next door’. But Harry is infatuated by a chance meeting with a gangster’s moll.
 
This was a very ambitious and risky undertaking for Langdon, just as The General was for Keaton. They both flopped, in both cases being just too grim and downbeat for contemporary acceptance as comedic entertainment. The General was largely responsible for Keaton being sold off to MGM, resulting in the ruination of his career. Long Pants sealed Langdon’s fate as well. The Strong Man was still quite episodic, but Long Pants has a definite tale to tell, and it’s a rather sordid one. Langdon plans to shoot his fiancée dead on their wedding day so he can bust femme fatale Bebe out of prison. The murder attempt sequence is quite bizarre with lots of Keatonesque pratfalls, but how can you root for Harry attempting to murder his sweet, young, innocent and trusting betroved? Well, this flick is just building up steam and it gets even wilder from here on out.

The DVD:

All three features in academy standard, all presented in a brownish tint. The Strong Man looks by far the best, with Tramp, Tramp, Tramp showing occasional wear and snippets of film missing. Long Pants is not only somewhat washed out (mostly Harry’s face), but an entire scene, a wild catfight between two gangster’s molls appears to have at some point been censored. The musical settings are good, featuring the original arrangement by Langdon for The Strong Man.
 
Langdon comes across as Chaplin in the first feature, and as Keaton in the third. Sandwiched in between is his greatest and most original accomplishment as a petulant man-child. Even those not usually inclined to tolerate silent features may wish to give this collection a shot. Just stand there and count to 500.

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