While trying to articulate how I felt after hearing 20’s silent film star Harold Lloyd speak for the first time in the 1932 talkie Movie Crazy, the dissatisfying experience of sitting through a band testing unwelcome alien material was the closest parallel I could conjure.
It wasn’t Lloyd’s tone or timbre that was particularly jarring, it was watching his silent bespectacled boy-character—that became so engrained in my mind– invade a movie and era to which it seemingly did not belong. Oddly enough, Movie Crazy plays out uncannily close to Harold Lloyd’s own biography.
Both Lloyd and the character he plays, Harold Hall, hail from a meager Midwestern town full of inflated dreams of Hollywood. Accidentally sending a phony head-shot of a more handsome man to Planet Studios, Hall’s fraudulent photo is noticed by executive J.L. O’Brien who invites Hall to a doomed screen test. He’s first looked upon as a screen screw up until the studio, and (of course) an alluring actress, notice his comic genius.
Movie Crazy is also marked by the direction of Lloyd’s collaborator and Hollywood casualty, Clyde Bruckman (pronounced “Brook-Man”). When Bruckman’s drinking began affecting his work, Lloyd assumed an unaccredited directing role. Bruckman’s once promising career, which had him working with all the early comedic kings (Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, W.C. Fields), stalled with a triad of lawsuits by Lloyd over his lifetime for stealing old gags.
A collaborator of Buster Keaton, helping write and direct the Great Stone Face’s classic The General, Bruckman would borrow once again from his past when he asked Keaton to lend him his .45 pistol under the pretense of using it for a hunting excursion. Sadly, he used it to take his own life after reportedly eating a meal he could not afford.
For his effort in the film community, Bruckman’s name adorned the title of a multiple Emmy winning episode of The X Files. Including a character that unfortunately meets a similar demise. Still, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame awaits Clyde Bruckman’s star to fall in its rightful resting place.