Vintage Movies: “Girl Shy”

MAGNET contributing editor Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 100 titles—from the ’20s through the ’80s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Girl Shy (1924, silent, 80 minutes)

Harold Meadows is an apprentice tailor to his uncle in Little Bend, Calif., a place where three things happen every day: morning, noon and night. Played by silent-era legend Harold Lloyd (a celluloid hero as beloved to movie fans of his day as Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton), Meadows has a deathly fear of—yet an irresistible attraction to—girls. When they speak to him (and they frequently do), Harold stutters uncontrollably until Uncle Jerry (Richard Daniels) blows a whistle behind the counter.

To overcome his paralyzing fear, Harold has written a book: The Secret Of Making Love, a short work dedicated to shedding light on the mystery that enshrouds women to his fellow man. Before he takes his manuscript to a Los Angeles publisher tomorrow, he’s busy one-finger typing the final two segments. Chapter 15 “My Vampire” suggests “indifference” is the key to capturing the heart of a woman addicted to nocturnal blood-lust. Chapter 16 “My Flapper” says to use the “caveman” technique for a newly liberated woman now flush with all the traditional vices of men: smoking, drinking and driving fast cars.

A rich girl who never shows it, Mary Buckingham (Jobyna Ralston) boards the L.A.-bound train the same time as Harold. When her tiny dog jumps from the moving coach onto the platform, Harold sprints to the caboose and, using a borrowed cane, snags the pooch by the collar. He returns the dog to an overjoyed Mary and spends the entire two-hour journey talking to her without stammering. She promises to meet Harold tomorrow to celebrate the good news from his publisher, then impulsively gives him a kiss on the cheek just as her taxi pulls away.

The vice president at Roger Thornby Publishing tells his boss about “a strange young man who walked in here in a daze, gave me this manuscript and walked right out.” Though ridiculed by Thornby after he skims a few pages, Harold’s submission has become an overnight water-cooler sensation with the female employees. “Are you the guy who wrote the book?” an incredulous, gum-chewing woman demands of Harold when he returns the next day. The girls in the office surround the flummoxed novice author as though he’s Ernest Hemingway in the flesh. Thornby, nevertheless, informs Harold he has no intention of publishing his lightweight contribution.

Crushed, Harold tells Mary he was only using her, that there was really nothing between them yesterday, rather than admit his manuscript has been rejected. Heartbroken, she accepts the marriage proposal of an older man, Ronald DeVore (Carlton Griffin), who’s only after her parents’ money. Fully employing the steely nerve and breathtaking acrobatic skill that Harold Lloyd has acquired as a Hollywood stuntman par excellence, Harold Meadows begins a frenzied, hair-raising journey to Beverly Hills to stop this marriage before it’s too late.

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