“His Marriage Wow”
Directed by Harry Edwards
Cast: Harry Langdon, Natalie Kinston, Vernon Dent, William McCall, Ronald Tilley, Thelma Hill, Art Rowlands, Silas D. Wilcox, Jack Murphy, Thelma Parr, Georgia Hale.
Released March 1, 1925. Running time: 21:17
There is a reason why certain films live on, why they stand out, why certain performers and directors achieve a legendary status and remain relevant over time and generations. It is no surprise that the image of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp, Buster Keaton’s stone face, and Harold Lloyd’s hanging from the clock of a tall building have reached an iconic status that extends far beyond the parameters of the many ordinary slapstick comedians who permeated silent movies. Comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd made better films, with greater depth. Their creative choices helped to advance, define, and expand the cinematic process and its presentation.
Often Harry Langdon is placed alongside these comedians as being their equal, and it is a status that is not undeserved. Langdon challenged that which was ordinary, and investigated edgier surrealist comedy, and his screen character was a bewildered innocent who attempted to control an often-hostile environment.
In “His Marriage Wow,” one of the restored films on the Mack Sennett Collection, Harry Langdon plays the initially complacent but eventually fearful groom. The opening scene shows him going into the wrong church and patiently waiting, seemingly unfazed that he is the only one in the enormous cathedral. When he realizes his error, he tries to run to the correct church, but gets his direction confused and ends up back where he started. The wedding ring falls out of his pocket and rolls under a car’s tire. The vehicle takes off, the ring attaches itself to the tire, so Harry runs after the auto, hops on the running board, and uses a knife to extricate his ring from the rolling tire. It is all played with utter seriousness, the innocent Harry being so determined and focused, he doesn’t appear to be aware that he is destroying a man’s car tire.
These early scenes establish the off kilter universe that Harry inhabits. The film continues with a wedding and his subsequent attempt to settle in with a family that he eventually believes is going to kill him for an inheritance. When Harry ingests coffee that is accidentally filled with sleeping pills, it leads to the chase sequence that concludes most Sennett comedies. But while this might be the standard structure for a Sennett production, Langdon’s vision is far different, and his writer Arthur Ripley shares his edgier sense. Director Edwards’ job is to spotlight Harry’s reaction to his surroundings. Realizing most of what he conveys is from his face, Edwards makes sure it is always in focus.
His Marriage Wow is a perfect example of how Ripley and Edwards tapped into the best showcase for Harry Langdon’s talents. But it is still Langdon who makes it work effectively. “His Marriage Wow” is the best film on the Mack Sennett Collection thus far, as well as one of the finest silent comedies made by one of the genre’s most gifted and intelligent comedians.