Grandma's Boy (1922)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Sep 3, 1922 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Janiss Garza

What separated the three great silent comedians -- Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd -- from the rest was their ability to create truly memorable characters. Combine this with a good story and great gags and it results in pictures like The Kid, Our Hospitality and this picture. Grandma's Boy was Lloyd's first true feature-length film, albeit a short one -- a runs a scant five reels, or 49 minutes. 1921's A Sailor-Made Man, at four reels, was more of an extended short. Like A Sailor-Made Man, Grandma's Boy began as a two-reeler that just kept on growing. The extra length was completely valid, as it gave Lloyd the ability to explore all the colors of the plot and, for the first time, really build on his "glasses" character. The first ten minutes are used to construct a solid foundation for Sonny (Lloyd), the cowardly young man, and gives the audience time to identify with him. We're shown that Sonny is easily bullied by his rival (Charles Stevenson) for the girl Mildred Davis). By the time the rival dumps poor Sonny in the well, we are on his side completely. Another strong character -- and the real love of Sonny's life -- is his old granny (Anna Townsend), frail looking but with a backbone of steel. It's Grandma who builds up Sonny's courage by giving him the "magic charm of Zuni," which she says was used by his Grandpa in the Civil War. It's gratifying to watch Sonny transform from wimp to hero as he defeats the killer tramp (Dick Sutherland) that is terrorizing the little rural village in which he lives, then to see him fight it out with his rival, ultimately dumping him in the very same well. It's even more gratifying to watch Sonny come to the realization that the charm was a fake and that he performed all these feats himself. Since Lloyd's characters are normal, everyday guys, as opposed to, say, Mack Sennett's grotesque-looking comics, the audience is able to warmly embrace them as their own. The early 1920s marked an important time in comic filmmaking, as Lloyd, Chaplin and Keaton all made this leap from mere caricature to true character. After that, comedy never looked back.