Meek country boy, Harold Hickory (Lloyd) is smitten by Mary Powers (Ralston), travelling with her late father's medicine show. When the show burns down, Harold invites her to stay at his house with his father and brothers. When the town's money is stolen by thugs from the medicine show, Harold's father is accused, and with encouragement from Mary, Harold sets out to find the real crooks.
Harold Lloyd ... Harold Hickory
Jobyna Ralston ... Mary Powers
Walter James ... Jim Hickory
Leo Willis ... Leo Hickory
Olin Francis ... Olin Hickory
Constantine Romanoff ... Sandoni (as C. Romanoff)
Eddie Boland ... 'Flash' Farrell
Frank Lanning ... Sam Hooper
Ralph Yearsley ... Hank Hooper (as R. Yearsley)
J.A. Howe (co-director)
Harold Lloyd (uncredited)
Lewis Milestone (uncredited)
All silent movie buffs know about Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH and Keaton's THE GENERAL. Strangely, THE KID BROTHER has been almost forgotten, which is a shame, as it is Harold Lloyd's masterpiece.
Better known for the "human fly" sequence in SAFETY LAST, it is in THE KID BROTHER that Harold reaches the top level of silent comedy stardom, alongside Chaplin & Keaton.
The story is a Western, set mostly on the ranch where Harold lives with his burly sheriff father and two older brothers. There's a dumb bully down the road, a very pretty young lady, a traveling medicine show and a nasty, bald bad guy. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but suffice it to say that Harold gets to showcase his famous athletic agility and there is a very complex & satisfying final showdown with Mr. Bad Guy at the climax.
For pure romanticism, however, there are few scenes in any silent film that can beat the one where Harold climbs a tree, ever higher, for one more glimpse of the very pretty young lady. It's about as sweet as they come...
The most important family in Hickoryville is (naturally enough) the Hickory's, with sheriff Jim and his tough manly sons Leo and Olin. The timid youngest son, Harold, doesn't have the muscles to match up to them, so he has to use his wits to win the respect of his strong father and also the love of beautiful Mary. A Harold Lloyd Masterpiece! It was now long after Lloyd left Hal Roach and he had opened his own film company, The Harold Lloyd Corporation where at first he distributed many of his film including Girl Shy (1924), Hot Water (1924) & The Freshman (1925) through Pathe but he had now made an agreement to distribute his films through Paramount. Lloyd had already distributed one film through Paramount entitled For Heaven's Sake in 1926.
Just like For Heaven's Sake, The Kid Brother is a very well staged film as well as being a hilarious picture. No Silent film director before Lloyd could use his camera to it's full extent with long-panning shots and track shots. D.W. Griffith had invented many well known camera techniques although Lloyd was one of the first recognised for doing it. The Cinematographer for most of Lloyd's films was Walter Lundin a very talented cameraman who was later also known for shooting Laurel & Hardy's Oscar-Winning The Music Box in 1932. In one scene where Harold says goodbye to his girl (Jobyna Ralston), Lloyd placed Lundin on a special lift so when Lloyd is climbing a tree higher and higher to say goodbye the Camera follows him very exceptionally and it's one of the best treats in the film. Although the most famous moment in the film is the fight with the villain on the derelict ship at the end. The Original director of the film was Lewis Milestone who went on to direct All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Milestone was then replaced by Lloyd Gagman Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe. Of course many people acknowledge Lloyd as being the director of his films to some extent although he was only credited as producer. For instance Lloyd directed most of Movie Crazy (1932) but he was never credited as director. However he was credited as directing some of his first "Glass Character" films in 1917 and 1918. Sam Taylor said "He Always had the Final Word" and that's definitely true.
Lloyd works very well with is co-stars Jobyna Ralston who had played his leading lady in 6 of his films was now to leave Lloyd and go and star in Wings (1927). Also in the cast are Walter James who also appeared in Keaton's Battling Butler (1926), Leo Willis famous for his films with Laurel & Hardy and Olin Francis. In the 20s Keaton borrowed gags from Lloyd's films and Lloyd borrowed gags from Keaton's film so they practically swapped but Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd were very good friends. Watching Lloyd's films and Keaton films, it is very evident the gags the both re-produced. The Train station scene in Safety Last! (1923) was practically copied from Keaton's Cops (1922). And The Navigator (1924) inspired The Kid Brother's ship scenes. The Finale is excellent where Lloyd and Ralston are walking down the countryside when suddenly his bully comes and want to fight they do and it becomes a sepectacular ending where the camera is surrounded by dust and when it all clears the bully is on the ground and Harold and Mary walk off into the distance. Check out www.daniel-d.com for more information on Harold Lloyd!
The Kid Brother is one of the best of Lloyd's features and a must see for fans of cinema of long ago.
Even by Harold Lloyd's high standards, this is one of his most entertaining and most imaginative movies. It combines humor and melodrama very well, and it is particularly rich in sight gags, again even by Lloyd's standards. Lloyd has a character that is well suited to his style, and he adds some impressive stunts as well.
As "The Kid Brother", Lloyd's character is the put-upon son of a tough sheriff, with two older, domineering brothers. The story has Harold involved romantically with Jobyna Ralston, who comes to town with a traveling medicine show that the sheriff is trying to shut down. There is also a large sum of money that has been collected for a new dam, and entrusted to the sheriff. There is a lot going on, and Lloyd's character faces challenges and difficulties both from his family and from the villains in the medicine show.
The efforts of Lloyd's character to win the respect of his family give the plot some depth that complements the comedy and melodrama well. The action sequences often combine stunts, drama, and visual comedy at the same time, and there are just enough thoughtful moments to keep the important characters from becoming flat. Constantine Romanoff makes a memorable villain, and the lengthy showdown in the old abandoned ship is a wonderful set piece with lots of interesting details.
It's well worth watching a number of times, in order to catch and enjoy everything that Lloyd and the rest of the cast and crew have packed into less than an hour and a half of running time. How fortunate it is that this and Lloyd's other gems have finally come out on DVD for all of us silent movie fans to enjoy.
I kept thinking how he deserves recognition as one of the great silent comedians alongside Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin--especially with his wonderful work in the well-crafted THE KID BROTHER.
The simple plot has him as the youngest and rather nerdy kid brother with his two strapping brothers towering over him as the apple of their father's eyes. Whenver something has to be done, he's left out of the picture while his father assigns his brothers to the task.
But the funniest scenes have to do with him trying to outwit and pull fast tricks on his brothers in a series of sight gags. They're perfectly willing to bully him whenever a show of muscle is involved--particularly when impressing a girl they all have a yen for.
There are too many sight gags to enumerate here and they all involve physical dexterity and timing of the highest order. A particularly demanding set of stunts are performed in the latter half of the story when our hero must board a ghost ship to retrieve money his father has been accused of stealing. The scenes involve a monkey in a sailor suit and a vicious villain out for the kill in keeping hold on stolen money.
All of it is photographed with great style and there's an emotional attachment to the romantic angle involving the girl (JOBYNA RALSTON) so that the hectic comedy is anchored by a story that keeps the comedy on firm ground.
Summing up: A delightful physical comedy, wonderfully photographed and played by an excellent cast, with Lloyd at his all-time best. In my opinion, this one tops SAFETY FIRST.
* All the male lead characters have the same first name as the actors who play them, with the exception of Jim Hickory, whose first name comes from the actor's last name, James.
* Harold Lloyd always claimed this to be his favorite of all his films he ever made and in later years found pride in screening the film in selected theatres and at film schools.
* This was the last film in which Lloyd appeared with Jobyna Ralston.
* Production originally began with Lewis Milestone as director. As production photos show, Milestone directed a few scenes but due to contract difficulties with Warner Brothers, he had to resign. He was replaced by Ted Wilde but later on, Wilde also could not continue directing for he succumbed to illness. Once again, Lloyd replaced Wilde with gagmen J.A. Howe and Lex Neal, however, Harold Lloyd directed much of the film himself and as he did with all his own shorts and features, Lloyd directed his directors-even Lewis Milestone who went on to direct All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Yet Lloyd never once took credit for directing any of his renowned features but only for producing.
* Lloyd's Brother, Gaylord Lloyd functioned as an assistant director on the film.
* Around eight writers and gagmen worked on the production for Lloyd wanted this film to have the greatest number of gags than any of his previous comedies.
* The list of "Subscribers to County Dam" shown in a meeting scene contains the actual names of the supporting cast members.
* For the scene where Harold Lloyd climbs a tree to spy on his beloved, an elevator was specially constructed to allow for the camera's rising move. This was the first time a production unit had gone to such elaborate lengths just to procure one shot.