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WATCH THE GLASSES: Harold Lloyd finds himself outnumbered but not outmatched in 'The Kid Brother.'

Hark, the Harold

Harold Lloyd's silent classic 'The Kid Brother' shows at California Theatre

By Richard von Busack

THE HICKORY FAMILY of Hickoryville consists of a trio of frontier bruisers, like the Cartwrights on Bonanza. The runt of the litter, Harold (Harold Lloyd), is responsible for the domestic chores. A troupe of traveling mountebanks comes to town, with a Spanish dancer in tow (Jobyna Ralston, Lloyd's beautiful co-star in several comedies). The city hall is burgled, Sheriff Hickory gets the rap and it's up to Harold to solve the crime and win the lady. Writing about a Lloyd comedy is a bit tough. They usually consist of a sequence of events, of one comedic thing happening after another, linked by a breezy young guy in specs and a straw hat: distinguished by his agreeable nature and his monkeyish ability to climb. Lloyd's co-star here is an amazing circus monkey in a sailor suit. The big climb is perhaps the most soulful bit in all of Lloyd's cinematic work; the slow ascension of a tree to see the last of the girl he's sweet on, as she heads farther and farther down the road.

But The Kid Brother bests the usual high standard of comedy in Lloyd films in its rather serious finale. Silent-comedy fight scenes usually conclude with a quick konk on the head. The villain in The Kid Brother is played by the professional wrestler Constantine Romanoff, who looks like an evil Abe Lincoln. He keeps coming back after being severely manhandled, just like the villain in a serious thriller. This movie is as nimble as its star, jumping successfully from a series of moods, from light-footed comedy to unironic romance to serious suspense. In short, The Kid Brother might be your first silent film, but it won't be your last.

Dennis James provides the musical accompaniment at the Wurlitzer organ. This is a rare chance to enjoy a genuine silent classic in the spacious environs of the magnificently restored movie palace the California Theatre. It shows as part of a series of special summer movie screenings presented by Team San Jane and Palo Alto's Stanford Theatre. Free popcorn, to boot, and an old-fashioned $5 ticket price.

Movie Times THE KID BROTHER plays Friday (July 24) at 7pm at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $5.

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