Lloyd, Keaton and Chaplin belong to a period of film history which was both developing and mastered. For as technology rapidly developed to instigate indispensable devices of sound and colour, the three geniuses had already perfected a genre. These great films operated and thrived on the purely visual and connected deeply with reality, as Lloyd once stated ‘My humor was never cruel or cynical. I just took life and poked fun at it. We made it so it could be understood the world over, without language barriers. We seem to have conquered the time barrier, too’.
In Girl Shy, Harold is an aspiring writer with a manuscript concerning how to seduce women. In reality, Harold is an utterly hopeless sap, a quivering and stammering mess at the sight of a woman, particularly Jobyna Ralston.
As with all works by Lloyd, Girl Shy is yet another demonstration of the star’s inhuman athleticism. In the last act alone, there are enough gags and stunts to fill ten silent comedies to the brim and induce a heart-attack. This segment tracks Lloyd as he rushes to thwart a wedding. Harold begins by attempting to catch a train but before the segment is over, he is chased by police, stealing a horse and cart and even riding a-top a tram car. It is a miraculous, seemingly never ending, sequence, but the longer it continues, the funnier and more dangerous it gets. The stunts grow larger as hapless Harold refuses to surrender, even after crashing nearly every possible transport. This is the inherent magic of Lloyd’s work, the distinction between the good and the great, Lloyd is always one step ahead of his audience. Whenever it seems the end is near or a conclusion is met, an unforeseen and hilarious obstacle swats our hero from triumph. Road rage of this level would not be seen again until The French Connection, or at least It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Girl Shy is an excellent comedy but also an accomplished tender romance. Lloyd quickly earns our sympathy as he stammers at the sight of all the beautiful women which grace the tailors shop. Lloyd flirts with overplaying but never oversteps the mark, he’s simply the worst case of tongue tied ever witnessed. The greatness of this picture begins as Ralston enters frame. An outright beauty with the straight man qualities and timing needed to fully realise the film’s potential, the chemistry becomes instantly palpable. Lloyd and Ralston’s initial encounter evolves from disaster to spark and her final, self conscious farewell kiss delights us as much as Lloyd. It is truly sweet and reserved romance.
Lloyd demonstrates his capabilities as an actor outside of pure comedy, in a very touching scene, Lloyd has been laughed out of the publishers and meets Ralston as they planned. Devastated and defeated, Lloyd decides it is better to push Ralston away to a better life rather than let her love a disappointment. Lloyd struggles with himself, trying to play the careless, laughing womaniser whilst his heartbreaks at the sight of Ralston’s beautiful tear filled eyes. There is not a drop of melodrama, instead it is a beautifully quiet moment of heartbreak of a wonderful silver screen romance. Luckily, happiness is just around the corner for the pair.
An abundance of humorous scenes performed with expert timing and grace by the befuddled hero in a timeless romantic adventure.
Harold and Ralston have been separated after a spark of love on a train trip. Harold drifts downstream under a little bridge as he wanders through thoughts of the beautiful woman. Little does he know, she is standing on top of the bridge thinking of him. Harold gazes into the water and mistakes her angelic reflection for his ardour induced imagination.