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Why Worry?

Why Worry?(1923)

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teaser Why Worry? (1923)

Although not quite the hit of his previous picture, Safety Last (1923), and more than twice as expensive to produce, Why Worry? (1923) was enough of a success to convince Harold Lloyd to become his own producer. It was the last film under his long and fruitful partnership with Hal Roach. Lloyd had begun to feel that Roach, who was now also producing the "Our Gang" comedies, Will Rogers pictures, Laurel and Hardy shorts and more, was too busy to contribute significantly to his movies. The parting was amicable – some say it was>Roach's idea. The producer/director released the entire Lloyd production team from their contract so they could continue to work together, and Roach and Lloyd remained close friends after their ten-year professional relationship ended.

Why Worry? also marked both the beginning and end of another partnership. Mildred Davis had been Lloyd's leading lady in 14 of his previous pictures. This marked his first film in years without her. But although Jobyna Ralston got the female role opposite the star, Davis got him in real life; they were married during production of Why Worry?.

After working for years with characters some considered imitative of Chaplin's Little Tramp, Lloyd finally struck gold in 1917 with his creation of the "glasses character" for which he is famous. Although the character changed from movie to movie, for many he was the quintessential All-American – brash, energetic, resourceful. It was a comic character most audiences related to because he was so recognizably like them, unlike the beloved but more unusual characters created by Chaplin and Keaton. And while some saw Lloyd's trademark role as merely reflections of the unrelenting American drive for success, this absurdist, almostsurreal comedy gave him a chance to satirize that image as well.

Lloyd plays a spoiled hypochondriac millionaire who travels to the tropics seeking a cure for his latest imagined illness (a theme close to his earlier hit, Doctor Jack, 1922). He lands in a Latin American country torn by revolution, but ever the self-concerned Yankee, he doesn't realize the political situation, thinking the strife to be part of a colorful way of life and a tourist pageant put on for his pleasure. The plot gave Lloyd opportunities for some peerless gags, including the final battle where he, his nurse (Ralston), and Colosso, a gentle giant he's befriended, keep the revolutionary forces at bay by making them think there's a whole army on the other side of the wall they hide behind. The story also was Lloyd's way of poking fun at the enormous popularity of Dr. Emile Coue, the French psychotherapist who promoted the notion of mental attitude (the "why worry?" of the title) as the cure for all ills.

Moviegoers and Lloyd fans made the film one of the major box office hits of the year. Less amused were Mexican viewers, who were convinced the movie was lampooning their homeland. The outcry was significant enough to cause Lloyd to write a letter of apology to the Mexican consul and eliminate any suggestion or reference to the film being set in South America. Subsequent release prints listed the setting as "The Isle of Paradiso, A Mythical Island, Somewhere, In Some Body of Water."

The part of Colosso the giant was originally assigned to Ringling Brothers Circus performer George Auger, but the eight-foot-plus man died suddenly the day before he was to leave for California to begin filming. A desperate nationwide hunt for a replacement was begun. One false lead led the company to Cisco, Texas, but before they could send someone to investigate, they received a cable from a city official saying, "You have been misinformed. There are no giants here and has been none for four years that I know of." Finally, after someone at the studio read a newspaper article about the making of a huge pair of shoes for a man in Minnesota, they located Johan Aasen, an eight-feet-nine-inches-tall Norwegian with an ironically soft, high-pitched voice.

Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Sam Taylor
Cinematography: Walter Lundin
Editing: Thomas J. Crizer
Cast: Harold Lloyd (Harold Van Pelham), Jobyna Ralston (The Nurse), John Aasen (Colosso), Leo White (Herculeo), James Mason (Jim Blake).
BW-63m.

by Rob Nixon

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