Harold Lloyd became one of the superstars of silent movie comedy playing the ambitious wise guy, eager to become a success and ready to bluff and scheme to get there, and his adventures tended to play out in the modern American city.
The Kid Brother (1927) drops him in rural America for a different kind of underdog comedy. He still has his trademark glasses but this time he’s Harold Hickory from Hickoryville, son of a burly sheriff (Walter James) and sibling of two strapping older brothers. Think of him as a kind of small town Cinderella, playing the domestic servant while the “men” go to town on business.
He’s more earnest here than in his more famous comedies The Freshmen and Safety Last but no less clever, whether he’s masterminding ingenious housework shortcuts or outsmarting his brothers while romancing Mary (Jobyna Ralston), an orphan who loses everything when her medicine show caravan burns to the ground. When Harold’s father is disgraced after the town’s savings are stolen from under his nose, scrawny Harold uses his wits (and a helpful capuchin monkey) to take on a real criminals in a fast-paced, gag-filled battle aboard an abandoned ship.
It’s one of Lloyd’s funniest films and one of his sweetest, a comedy driven by a devotion to family and romantic affection and directed by regular Lloyd collaborator Ted Wilde with an eye for the pastoral beauty of the setting. Lloyd proclaimed the film his personal favorite of his career.
Black and white, silent with music score
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The Kid Brother (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Kid Brother (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
Criterion presents the film on DVD and Blu-ray from a 4K restoration and offers an orchestral score composed by Carl Davis (recorded in 1989) and an earlier organ score by Gaylord Carter. The special edition also features commentary (recorded in 2005), new video essays by David Cairns and John Bengstrom, new and archival interviews, and two restored early shorts starring Lloyd: “Over the Fence” (1917) and “That’s Him” (1918).