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With: Harry Langdon, Gladys McConnell, Cornelius Keefe, Henry A. Barrows, Brooks Benedict, Julia Brown, Joe Butterworth, George Dunning, John Kolb, Frances Raymond, Agnes Steele, Arthur Thalasso, Fred Warren, Bobby Young
Written by: Robert Eddy, James Langdon, Harry McCoy, Arthur Ripley
Directed by: Harry Langdon
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 126
Date: 08/28/1927
IMDB

Three's a Crowd (1927)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Baby-Faced Daddy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Nearly everything I've read about Harry Langdon suggests that his career became worthless after he broke off his collaboration with director Frank Capra. But looking at these two silent-era features directed by Langdon himself shows that this thinking is blatantly wrong. Kino has released an essential new DVD containing Langdon's Three's a Crowd (1927) and The Chaser (1928), with a commentary track on the former and new organ scores on both. Nothing less than a masterpiece, Three's a Crowd stars Langdon as a down-and-out working stiff who slaves some 19 hours a day for his boss in exchange for a crumbling hovel, accessible only by an insanely long (and slightly lopsided) staircase. His life changes when he rescues a half-frozen girl (Gladys McConnell) from a snowstorm and discovers that she's pregnant. Harry dreams of becoming a family man, but frets that the girl's husband will turn up. Langdon cooks up several brilliant set pieces, far less energetic than those of his comedy cohorts, but just as potent. In one sequence, he attempts to climb into his second-story hovel through a trapdoor via a length of rug, which keeps slipping. In another, he dreams of a nasty boxing match between he and he husband; Harry has an enlarged boxing glove and the girl is the only spectator. But the most amazing scene comes just after the baby is born. An army of doctors and midwifes shake Harry's hand and pat him on the back, and he is left standing alone, holding an armload of toys, staring at the new mother and baby, completely unsure of what happens next. Langdon holds the long shot for a while, and his face barely registers a blip, but yet it tells everything. (Langdon was also capable of playing an entire scene showing only the back of his head.) The second film, The Chaser (1928), is slightly less interesting, but still quite masterful. Harry plays a carousing husband who is ordered by a judge to swap places with his wife, including wearing a dress. Both films flopped and started Landgon on his unstoppable career decline, but they're both due for reconsideration. The co-writer on both films, Arthur Ripley, went on to direct the notorious Robert Mitchum film Thunder Road (1958).

DVD Details: Kino has also released two other new titles in their "Slapstick Symposium" series. The two-disc The Stan Laurel Collection Volume 2 is more interesting historically than it is artistically; Laurel didn't find his stride until he teamed with Oliver Hardy. It contains 21 shorts ranging from one to three reels, from the years 1918 to 1926. The Extra Girl (1923) was a rare chance for comedienne Mabel Normand to enjoy the spotlight. (She was a Mack Sennett contact player who often appeared opposite Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.) She plays a young dreamer who goes to Hollywood and winds up doing grunt work rather than becoming a star. The film gets bogged down with subplots, but a highlight has Mabel tangling with a lion. The disc includes a short, The Gusher (1913).

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