"Grandma's Boy" (1922) is a silent comedy starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, and Anna Townsend. Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, this film is about an awkward, shy boy who is afraid of everything. The story, which is set in the sleepy rural village of Blossom Bend, begins with a bespectacled baby who is too afraid to claim his own crib losing his cookie to an aggressive baby. The next scene opens with a grade school boy who has his lunch confiscated by a smaller, but more assertive child. The following scene shows the now adult boy, played by Harold Lloyd, striving to impress the girl, played by Mildred Davis, who is being pursued by a more masculine rival. The rival eventually pushes the wimpy boy into the well. When a mysterious tramp comes and sits down in their yard, Grandma tells the boy to tell the tramp to leave but the boy does not have the courage to do those kind of things. Convinced that he is a coward, the boy gives up all hope of gaining confidence. That is when his grandma, played by Anna Townsend, comes to the rescue. She makes up a story about his grandfather (played in flashback by Harold Lloyd) that explains how he likewise was afraid to carry out a mission during the Civil War until attaining a talisman from a mysterious woman who assured him that it would allow him to overcome all obstacles. Grandma then offers this same "family heirloom" to her grandson. Will the boy overcome his cowardice?
In "Grandma's Boy," Lloyd is charming as a timid boy and demonstrates some fine acting as well as comic ability. Anna Townsend as Lloyd's grandma is both tough and lovable. I love the scenes in which the tiny lady is picked up and hugged by her adoring grandson. The scene in which the grandma chases off the threatening tramp with her broom is truly funny. Perhaps the funniest moments in the film is the grandfather's Civil War scene. What I enjoyed the most about the film is that its plot makes Lloyd deal with both a bully and a vicious tramp which gives him plenty of opportunities for running, leaping, and fistfights. "Grandma's Boy" was Harold Lloyd's first feature film. Originally, Lloyd producer Hal Roach and director Fred Newmeyer were going to make "Grandma's Boy" a two-reeler, but it evolved so much that in the end, five reels were filmed and edited. Before "Grandma's Boy," every single one of Lloyd's films just involved gags and extremely fast paced comedy. "Grandma's Boy" was a very significant film because it was his first character comedy which meant that the film not only had gags and a love interest, but it examined the leading character a lot more into depth. Lloyd's performances in his feature films and roles were not strictly comic. There was an element of physical humor always present, but one enjoys and empathizes with Lloyd because he is an ordinary young man facing the problems that most young men encounter. There is always something nice and reassuring about a Harold Lloyd film, and that is because of the comedian himself and his three leading ladies, Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis, whom he married in 1923, and Jobyna Ralston. In most of his films, Lloyd's character has a certain tenacity to succeed and does overcome all obstacles and difficulties. With a stronger storyline than some of Lloyd's later features, "Grandma's Boy" is sweet, funny, and suspenseful.
Through the efforts of the Harold Lloyd Trust, the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and Sony Pictures, all of Lloyd's feature-length silent films and most of his shorts received state of the art preservation and pristine restoration.
*It is interesting to note that Harold Lloyd suffered the loss of his right thumb and forefinger in an accidental prop bomb explosion on August 14, 1919, just as his career was starting to take off. He hid his disability wearing flesh-colored prosthetic gloves.