Review by Steve D. Stones
Long Pants, also known as Johnny Newcomer, is a 1927 silent era comedy directed by Frank Capra and starring comic genius Harry Langdon. This is the second and final collaboration between Capra and Langdon. (This is Plan9Crunch's second original Harry Langdon post this month, in recognition of the upcoming Harry Langdon Film Festival later this month in Fremont, Calif.)
In the film, Langdon plays baby faced Harry Shelby, a youngster who dreams of romance by going to the Oak Grove Public Library to check out reading material, such as Desire Under The Elms, to read in the privacy of his house attic. His parents hope that he will get married one day. His mother (Gladys Brockwell) says to his father (Alan Roscoe) “Short pants are keeping him off the street.” Young Shelby eventually grows out of the short pants and his life changes when he starts to wear longer pants.
One day, a beautiful femme fatale named Bebe Blair (Alma Bennett) gets a flat tire in front of Shelby's home. The driver of the car leaves to get help with the flat tire. Shelby sees Blair in the car and immediately falls in love with her. Shelby rides his bike around Blair's car in an attempt to get her attention and impress her. Eventually the two have a long kiss in the car just before the driver returns.
After Blair and the driver leave, Shelby finds a note on the ground that mentions getting married. Shelby assumes it is addressed to him from Blair and starts to dance happily in the street. Little does he know that Blair has no interest in him even though they both kissed. Blair has a boyfriend in the mob.
Although Shelby is to be married to his childhood sweetheart - Priscilla (Priscilla Bonner) and attend a Egg Festival with her, he dreams of being with Blair. On his wedding day to Priscilla, Shelby sees a front page headline in the local newspaper that Blair has been arrested. Apparently Blair is mixed up in a big crime racket.
On that same day of his wedding, Shelby asks his bride-to-be to take a walk with him out into the woods. He takes a gun with him in order to murder Priscilla. Some of the funniest sequences can be seen during this part of the film. He asks Priscilla to close her eyes and count to five hundred as he slowly backs away from her in the forest to pull out the gun and shoot her. The problem is, however, that the gun keeps sliding down his pant leg, and he eventually backs into a barbed wire fence, then steps into a bear trap. Great comic, slap stick sequences during this part of the film.
The wedding is called off as Shelby comes to Blair's aide to help her escape from jail. After the escape, Shelby carries Blair around in a large crate on his back. A basket of light bulbs placed on the crate by a street worker begin to slide off the crate one by one as Shelby and Blair think gun shots are being fired at them. Some more great comedy sequences.
I find some of the more subtle images in the opening sequences to be the most interesting in the film, such as a shot of a swinging wood gate in front of a house, wrinkled long pants blowing in the wind on a clothes line, and the closing of an attic opening as young Shelby retires to the attic to read romance novels. These images help to symbolize Shelby's fate in the film.
Although Long Pants was a box office flop and signaled a downward spiral for the career of Harry Langdon, it is still required viewing for any Langdon fan. Kino Video released a DVD of Long Pants in 2000 with two other Langdon films included on the DVD – The Strong Man and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp with Joan Crawford. Don't miss this release if you're a Langdon fan. Happy viewing.