I just came back from Capitolfest in Rome, NY and boy oh boy, what an experience! Work prevented me from attending the whole weekend, but I was fortunate enough to visit Sunday and catch amongst other films a Langdon feature, My Weakness (1933). Out of all the films that were scheduled, I was most excited about this one (for obvious reasons). Watching it for the first time on the big screen was pretty magical. Langdon plays Cupid, and right from the start one notices some of his “Little Elf” mannerisms from the previous decade. Although he only has a few short appearances throughout the film, all were top shelf and classic Harry. Langdon aside, I found the rest of the film hilarious… packed with some great gags, physical comedy and some witty and risqué lines (the Code would be rigorously enforced less than 10 months later). One of my favorite scenes (and I think the audience’s too) was a bizarre yet comical one when all the miniature statues in the room started singing. Who was the conductor you may ask? None other than Harry, of course. Overall, the trip (and films) was great fun, and I hope I’m able to make it for the whole weekend next year. It’s seems like it keeps getting better every year.
As some of you may already know, I don’t like analyzing shorts and films, well, at least publicly. I don’t know why, that’s just me. So, I thought I’d include a synopsis of the film borrowed from Harter and Hayde’s LITTLE ELF book. Enjoy!
An excerpt from LITTLE ELF: A Celebration of Harry Langdon by Chuck Harter & Michael Hayde
From his home in the clouds, Cupid (Harry Langdn) tells us in rhyming couplets about “the toughest job I ever had,” involving playboy Ronnie Gregory. Ronnie has been dropped from the payroll of his late father’s brassiere company by his uncle Ellery, co-owner of the business. Ellery was encouraged to do this by his young girlfriend, Jane, a gold-digger. As Ronnie tries to persuade his uncle to reinstate his income, and that Jane is only interested in marrying for money, LooLoo, a dowdy maid, arrives to tidy up the room. Ronnie insists, “Every woman is a bag of tricks,” and claims he could take any woman and “marry her off to a man in the social register.” LooLoo overhears and begs Ronnie to do it to her: “I don’t want to be a maid all my life.” She also dreads the idea of marrying her boyfriend Maxie, a cab driver. Amused, Ellery tells Ronnie to “fulfill this young girl’s dream… and I’ll re-establish your income.” Disgusted, Ronnie leaves, but LooLoo follows. She tries to convince him that she is attractive to men, but fails miserable in her attempt.
Cupid introduces Ronnie’s overly studious cousin Gerald (“I gave up on him years ago”). Ronnie tells Gerald, “Get your father to release my money.” He refuses because all Ronnie thinks about is women. Ronnie insists it isn’t true as a number of his girlfriends arrive. Some of them flirt with Gerald, but he’s uninterested and departs. Meanwhile, LooLoo appears, hoping to convince Ronnie to take on his uncle’s challenge. With no alternative, he agrees and his girlfriends set to work improving her appearance. Ronnie decided Gerald will be the perfect beau for LooLoo, and each of the girls will teach her the art of capturing a man. As they fix her up, Cupid flies into the room and conducts a choir of dolls and figurines, who sing “You Can Be Had.”
Two months pass and Cupid points out the bills for LooLoo’s makeover are driving Ronnie to distraction, until the girls tell him they’re finished. In her apartment, she practices talking and walking and converses with an imaginary Ronnie, with whom she’s fallen in love. Ronnie arrives and tells her how to win Gerald’s heart, explaining his interest in stamp collecting and diet of raw carrots. He says, “I want to see how you are at something a girl can’t teach you.” They practice kissing. Maxie enters and objects, but Ronnie assures him he’s not interested.
At the fashion show where she is to meet Gerald, Ronnie takes LooLoo aside and gives her some last-minute instructions: “If he asks you something you don’t understand, just say ‘What do you think?'” Ronnie introduces her to Gerald, and they sit together. After one of the models sings, LooLoo says she’s bored and wishes she were home with her stamp collection. At this, Gerald perks up: “Are you really an ardent philatelist?” “What do you think?” she replies.
As they talk further, Gerald becomes more interested, while LooLoo realizes he’s a bore. She asks him to dance, but he graciously declines, so she begins singing the song the model performed earlier. She scoffs at the idea of lovemaking, while holding his hand, putting her arm around him and kissing him. When the clock strikes twelve, she declares it’s time for supper and tells him raw carrots are “me weakness.” Won over, Gerald proclaims his love.
Ronnie congratulates LooLoo for pulling it off, adding, “Don’t let him escape now. Can you imagine Uncle Ellery when he wakes up and finds his son married to a maid!” Back in her apartment, she again addresses an imaginary Ronnie: “You think it’s very funny that Gerald should fall for me, don’t you? Well, maybe I can find your weakness, too!” A telegraph boy delivers a letter; as he leaves, Ronnie’s butler arrives and tells her that although his boss wishes to see no one, he’ll let her in whenever she wants. She thanks him and opens the letter, a marriage proposal from Gerald. Leaving, LooLoo runs into Maxie, who tells her he’s going to be “indifferent” about her until she comes crawling back.
LooLoo meets with Ronnie’s girlfriends. When they ask if Gerald has proposed yet, she lies and says no. Each gives her more tips: compliment his teeth, use baby talk, and if all else fails, stage a faint. She visits Ronnie, who is depressed about not having an income. She tries the girls’ suggestions, but he is unresponsive until she stages a faint. He orders his butler to bring water to the “poor darling,” and she immediately perks up: “Did you mean that?” He calls her a fraud and tells her to get out.
Cupid comments: “Can you imagine a fellow throwing a girl out of his apartment? It’s usually the other way around.” He takes us to Gerald, who’s being tailed by Ellery and Jane. Ellery tells her Gerald “went completely haywire” and lost several big accounts for the company. Ellery finds him at LooLoo’s apartment, confronts him and sends him away. Then Ellery asks LooLoo to break up with Gerald. When he admits Ronnie tried to break up his relationship with Jane, LooLoo comes on to Ellery and pure him a highball. She sings as he gets intoxicated, and he falls for her.
At Ronnie’s apartment, LooLoo tells the butler her plan: when Ronnie hears that dh’s going to marry his uncle, he’ll object and profess his love. Jane shows up, furious that Ellery has broken up with her, and tells the butler she intends to marry Ronnie for spite. Immediately, LooLoo fights with Jane until Ronnie intervenes. When Jane storms out, LooLoo tells Ronnie she’s going to wed Ellery. Ronnie is delighted: “Now I’ll be even with the lot of them: Jane, Gerald and Ellery!” “All you ever think of is yourself,” LooLoo replies. “I hate you! I hate all men!” Leaving, she encounters Maxie in the hallway and shoos him away; the same with Gerald, who commiserates with Maxie.
Ronnie has second thoughts about LooLoo marrying Ellery. His butler believes he loves her, but Ronnie is reluctant to admit it; instead, he professes concern about gossip his uncle will endure. Ellery arrives, announcing that he and Jane are through and that he intends to marry LooLoo. Ronnie confesses that she’s the maid from their original bet, but Ellery doesn’t care, admitting Jane was the cause of their troubles. When Ellery tells him his income has been restored, Ronnie instead asks for a job. Ellery is delighted.
LooLoo returns and tells Ellery she’s too young to marry him. She also tells Ronnie, “I once thought I could marry for money and ease, but I’ve learned enough about men in the last three months to know that I’ll never marry anybody. So thanks for the education.” She walks out.
His eyes finally opened, Ronnie goes to her apartment and professes his love, asking, “Won’t you forgive me for taking so long to find it out?” She replies, “What do you think?” and they kiss. Cupid winks and addresses the audience: “Well, I put it over… and look out I don’t do it to you, and you, and you….”
From the Fan Mail Department of the Silver Screen magazine – July 1934
Here’s to Charles Butterworth! He delivered some of the best lines and got a lot of the laughs. Sorry, Harry.