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Monday, 19 March 2012

Box Set Monday #12: Mildred Davis (Guest post!)

For this week's Box Set Monday I am very excited to have the wonderful Missy from labelleboheme guest posting. Missy is the biggest Mildred Davis fan you will probably ever meet and, as such, she is extremely knowledgeable about Mildred's films and life. Who better to create a box set for the lady in question? No one! And I, for one, am looking forward to watching the films in the box set because I've shamefully only seen one (a long time ago at that). So, without further ado, I'll hand you over to Missy.
Silent film actress Mildred Davis is often underappreciated as an individual actress. She tends to be seriously overlooked due to the bulk of her work being as a leading lady in comedian Harold Lloyd's films (and then more-or-less retiring shortly after her marriage to Lloyd in 1923). And that's a bit unfortunate. Though she may not have been a huge force in the silent era, Mildred's sweet charm and her skills as a comedic leading lady contributed much to Harold Lloyd's films, at a time when Lloyd's popularity was certainly on the rise. And she's personally my favorite of Lloyd's female co-stars! In a box set centered around Miss Davis, some of her greatest and most memorable films with eventual husband Harold Lloyd would be featured.

From Hand To Mouth, 1919
I Do, 1921
A Sailor Made Man, 1921
Grandma's Boy, 1922
Dr. Jack, 1922
Safety Last!, 1923


From Hand to Mouth (1919) is significant because it was Mildred's first film opposite Harold Lloyd, replacing former Lloyd co-star Bebe Daniels. In this short film, Mildred plays an innocent young heiress who is being swindled out of her inheritance by a dastardly lawyer and a gang of criminals. The plan to keep her from claiming her inheritance by midnight? Kidnap her. The impoverished Boy (played by Harold Lloyd), of whom Mildred's character had helped earlier that day, somehow gets caught up in the scheme. Once he realizes who the damsel in distress is, he vows to help save her and her inheritance. Knowing this is Mildred and Harold's first film together, it's interesting to see how they interact with one another in character.


I Do (1921) is my favorite of the Lloyd-Davis short films, mainly because of the interaction between the two. In this short, Harold and Mildred play a young newlywed couple who are told to babysit a brother-in-law's two young children. As you would imagine, the children are a handful and it doesn't help that word on the street is there's a dangerous burglar on the loose in their neighborhood. What I especially love about this film is the strong sense of companionship between the two. Here, Mildred's character is not simply there as the object of Harold's affection; instead, Mildred takes part in the majority of the hilarious antics side-by-side with Harold and really shows her own brand of comedic skill. They play off of one another and it's a wonderful thing!


In A Sailor Made Man (1921), Mildred and Harold both play wealthy young people. Harold's character, a pretentious playboy, falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy business man (played by Mildred) and suddenly decides to marry her. To prove himself worthy to her father, he enlists in the Navy. When the Navy ship docks on a Middle Eastern town, it is found that The Girl and her father also arrive there at the same time by yacht. The Girl gets kidnapped by the local maharajah and, in the ultimate test of worthiness, Harold's character embarks to outwit the maharajah and save her. Mildred's flirtatious nature, especially in the beginning of the film, is quite funny and endearing.


Grandma's Boy (1922) was Harold's personal favorite of his films and was the film that really established him as a force to be reckoned with in the world of silent comedy. Again, Mildred plays Harold's love interest but she gives her character an innocent, coquette, and bubbly personality that makes her very likable (and very funny!) Her character really believes in Harold's shy character and is one of the reasons that drives him to prove his courage and assertiveness.


Dr. Jack (1922) is actually my personal favorite out of all of Harold Lloyd's films, and a large part of that is due to Mildred's character and performance. Though Dr. Jack is not considered one of Lloyd's groundbreaking films, Mildred's complex character and her acting in this film really shine through. In the film, Mildred plays "The Sick-Little-Well Girl" who is, as her name suggests, not actually sick but is being treated as though she were deathly ill. Harold is Dr. Jack, the new specialist they bring in to check up on The Sick-Little-Well-Girl. In addition to being funny and charming in many scenes, Mildred's character also tugs at your heartstrings. You feel especially sympathetic towards The Sick-Little-Well Girl, of whom no one but Dr. Jack seems to truly understand. The forbidden love story-line is also another one of my favorite things about this film -- you don't often see it done in the Lloyd-Davis films.


Then there's the classic Safety Last (1923). Mildred plays the devoted girlfriend to Harold's iconic go-getter character. When Harold's character moves to the city to try and make well enough to buy a nice home for Mildred and himself, Harold gives his girlfriend the false impression that he's doing splendidly. Mildred, believing him, decides to join him in the city earlier than expected, leaving Harold to try to keep up the lie he concocted. This movie is arguably their most famous film together and it became the pinnacle of thrill comedy. Though Mildred didn't climb any buildings and hang off of clocks with Harold in this film, she does a fantastic job at perpetuating the comedy of the whole situation with her adorably naive character. It's a classic, indeed.

A large thank you to Sophie for allowing me to write this guest post -- it was a lot of fun and I really appreciate it! I hope this post inspires some people to watch my lovely lady Mildred Davis's films and I hope these films brighten your day and give you a good laugh!
Thank you so much for such an interesting box set - I can't wait to watch the films! :)

As always, if you would like to participate in BSM, leave me a comment, send me an email etc. and we can work something out! :) 

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