June 23, 2021

"He was so afraid of girls that he made a secret study of them, and the more he studied them, the more he feared them."

So reads an intertitle 1 minute and 19 seconds into the 1924 Harold Lloyd movie "Girl Shy" (which I watched because my son John identified it as his favorite movie of that year). 

The character is what these days we might call an "incel." He's also, essentially, a pornographer, to the extent such a person could appear in a mainstream movie in 1924. He is writing "The Secret of Making Love" by thinking up a stereotypical female and dictating the right approach for the male to gain the quickest possible sexual access...


The access is indicated by his putting a check by her name in his little book. If you watch that clip, you'll see his visualization of the seduction of, first, the "vampire" (i.e., the vamp) and, second, the flapper. In case you'd like to know this pathetic little man's imagined mode of conquest, the vampire is seduced by ignoring her (negging?), and the flapper responds to his acting like a "caveman" (domestic violence?). 

Of course, this is played (successfully!) as comedy, and of course, our little man — Harold Meadows — finds a real woman to love. Here, he tries to tell her about his book, gets carried away in rhapsodizing about the new direction of his next chapter, and is thwarted by a turtle who slowly drags him into the muck where he becomes embarrassingly gooey and sticky. He's sitting on the turtle, which I have to say represents his genitalia:


Ann Althouse said...

Will writes:

"His genitalia? Well, like a famous psychoanalyst once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But thanks for linking to this classic from the silent era -- your son is right -- it is a remarkable piece of work, which I remember studying in a college film class 40 years ago."

I can't believe this would be studied in college without getting into all the little sexual things going on constantly! Why go to college?!

Ann Althouse said...

Tony from London writes:

Please don't be too harsh on Harold Lloyd's character. "Making love" at that time meant “pay amorous attention; to court, woo“ - somewhat contradicted by his treatment of the vamp.

Harsh?! I'm giving him credit.

I realize the deniability is there, but the check marks in the book make it clear to any sophisticated person that the man in the book is having sex with the vamp and the flapper! Watch the clip. This is definitely about sex, not chaste wooing.

Ann Althouse said...

LA_Bob wrotes:

I can't believe this would be studied in college, period. But, then I was never in a college film class. And as far as "all the little sexual things going on", it's pretty clear folks a hundred years ago knew a thing or two about sex. A hell of a lot farther back than that, too, "deniability" or not. The turtle might have been a "sex symbol" but could just as easily have been a prop for yet another misadventure befalling our hero.

And, by the way, our nebbish hero showed some "big balls" in the end.

But except for a touch of dragginess in the middle, the flick was a real treat. Among other things (the struggle to "get there in time" reminded me of "The Graduate"), it was a great view of life in LA in the Roaring Twenties. Trains, trolleys, and cars! And I loved the Robert Israel score, especially the little march theme that kept coming in. Thanks to your son for celebrating this and you for posting about it.

Yeah, John and I both independently connected it to "The Graduate."

Ann Althouse said...

That's Lloyd doing all those stunts for real in that long chase.

Ann Althouse said...

By the way... great product placement for Cracker Jacks... and Acme Dog Biscuits (which I have on good authority are inferior to Scooby Snacks).

Ann Althouse said...

George writes:

One consequence of the new system: You need to come up with a title to identify the post you're referring to. So, here, I'm nominally responding to the Harold Lloyd post but actually to the indirect reference to the Jaltcoh project.

He’s now reached the early 30s (through 1934). The only one of the movies from that period that is completely unknown to me is Temple Drake, which I would definitely watch if it turned up on TCM or elsewhere on cable (just checked, not available, even for “ready money,” on Xfinity). I haven’t seen M or City Lights in their entirety, but I know what they are.

I’m very familiar with all the rest and can’t object to the choice of any of them. I got into the Marx Brothers in college in the early 70s, when they were staples at the revival houses that were all over Cambridge at the time, as well as the one dollar movie nights that many of the Harvard houses had on Friday or Saturday nights.

Continuing into the 80s, two of the Boston TV stations had an “old movie” showing once a week: the “Great Entertainment” late on Saturday night and the “Movie Loft” during the evening earlier in the week. Both shows had great hosts (Frank Avrush and Dana Hersey, who got his start as a clown on a Bozo TV show in Boston) who foreshadowed Robert Osborne's role on TCM many years later.

The only remaining one of the revival houses is the Brattle, just outside Harvard Square, which was the shrine of Bogie and almost singlehandedly kept his cult alive from the 50s until it gained more widespread membership in the 70s and 80s.