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The Harold Lloyd two-reel comedy His Royal Slyness (1919) is a variation on a popular theme of its time, the American who somehow becomes ruler of a faraway, exotic (and fictional) land. In this instance, Lloyd plays a brash American book salesman who travels to a country called Thermosa to find that he's a ringer for the dissolute local prince, who is supposedly attending school in the U.S. but is really pursuing a vampy girlfriend and dreaming of becoming an American playboy. The prince is played by an uncredited Gaylord Lloyd, Harold's real-life older brother.
In a development reminiscent of The Prisoner of Zenda, the look-alike is persuaded to take the monarch's place. The fake prince romances the local princess and unwittingly starts a revolution among the country's peasants, who have grown resentful of the corrupt royal court. Although the real prince eventually returns to claim his throne and princess, the revolution proves successful and the impostor is elected president of a new republic.
In addition to the physical comedy that was Lloyd's trademark, His Royal Slyness has elements of political satire. The Russian Civil War was underway at the time, and the irate revolutionaries were inspired by the Bolsheviks of the day. The film gains an ironic edge by casting character actor Gus Leonard as both Thermosa's "King Razzamatazz" and a ragged, enraged orator who rails against the court; and by having the newly installed president turn instantly into a dictator in his own right.
His Royal Slyness could be seen as a forerunner of Lloyd's classic Why Worry? (1923), in which the comic would again become embroiled in a revolution in a faraway land. Lloyd, 26 when His Royal Slyness was released, had not yet developed the girl-shy quality of his onscreen persona and is quite flirtatious with the movie's pretty young women. Playing the princess is Mildred Davis, who would soon become Mrs. Harold Lloyd and retire from films.
Producer/Director: Hal Roach
Screenplay: H.M. Walker (titles)
Cast: Harold Lloyd (The American Boy), Mildred Davis (Princess Florelle), "Snub" Pollard (Prince of Rochquefort), Gus Leonard (King Razzamatazz/Bolshevik Orator), Noah Young (The Prince's Tutor), Gaylord Lloyd (The Prince, uncredited).
by Roger Fristoe