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LONG PANTS

USA, 1927 (MIFF 1956, Programme 3)

Director: Frank Capra

Harry Langdon liked to call himself the "Christian innocent": innocent as are all the great pathetic comedians, having a skin less than ordinary people, and a sense missing, so that the most everyday happenings lead them into a series of impossible misadventures: and Christian because Langdon conveys a simple, unshakeable faith, a readiness to believe the best of people. He is the most trusting of comedians and, indeed, providence was always his strongest ally. With sad eyes set in the doughy moon-face, like pieces of coal stuck in a snowman's head, he surveys the world from a child's viewpoint; everyone is rather bigger than he is: everything is just-beyond his reach.

The territory Langdon made his own is that borderline where comedy touches pathos, where absurdity becomes loneliness, and the hero has always a little of Quixote in his make &ndash: up.

Long Pants, on a reviewing today, has many good moments of comedy, and Langdon as aa small-town adolescent, dazzled and duped by a beautiful schemer, has a simpleton charm. The film is more skilfully and economically handled than Harold Lloyd's comedies of the same period, and Langdon's first meeting with the adventuress, his mounting infatuation as he cycles foolishly round and round the open car in which she is invitingly sitting, is a brilliant scene. In its ease of comic invention (sometimes running to over &ndash: emphasis), quick ability to establish atmosphere &ndash: from lightly sentimental family scene to the brassy nightclub in the city &ndash the fundamentals of Capra's talent can clearly be seen.

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