In Harry Langdon's first feature film, TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP, a young man takes Horace Greeley's advice and goes west--on foot. Popular with 1926 audiences, the movie established Langdon as a screen funnyman comparable in stature to Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.
A wealthy shoe manufacturer named John Burton (Edwards Davis) decides to sponsor a coast-to-coast walking race with a first prize of $25,000. Meanwhile, Amos Logan (Alec B. Francis), a small independent shoemaker who can't pay his rent, finds himself on the edge of bankruptcy. When world walking
champ Nick Kargas (Tom Murray), who happens to be Amos's landlord, decides to enter the race, he takes along a lackey: Logan's hapless son, Harry (Harry Langdon). On the eve of the big event, Burton's beautiful daughter, Betty (Joan Crawford), persuades Harry to enter the contest himself.
Over the course of the cross-country trek, Harry encounters many obstacles. First, he narrowly escapes death falling from a precipice. Then, he is arrested for stealing food from a farm. After escaping from a chain gang, he is almost done in by a cyclone. Meanwhile, Amos follows his son's progress
from Massachusetts to California by viewing newsreel footage of the race.
After nipping out Kargas at the finish line, Harry uses the prize money to pay his father's debts and marries Betty--who later gives birth to a baby boy who looks exactly like Harry.
An amusing and sunny outdoor comedy, TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP seems weak only in comparison with Langdon's next feature, THE STRONG MAN (1926), a much richer blend of laughs, thrills, and tears.
Among the earlier film's deficiencies is an anemic story. The bulk of the movie is devoted to little more than a succession of pickles Harry gets himself into on his way west. Nothing is made of the fact that the Logans' landlord and the world walking champion are the same man. (If one isn't
paying close attention, one may not be sure that they are the same man.) And someone should have thought up a more humorous or exciting way for Harry to win the marathon; a viewer's reconstruction of the script would simply note that "Harry wins the race."
TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP's romance is markedly inferior to that of THE STRONG MAN, in which the beloved of the sappy title character is not a sophisticated, unattainable beauty like Betty Burton but a simple small-town girl. Shrewdly, the latter was written as blind so that she cannot be disillusioned
by the fact that her sweetheart looks like a 150-pound baby. Additionally, with seven credited writers and who knows how many uncredited ones (Langdon had a reputation for harboring numerous gagmen within his entourage), the picture should have included sharper, cleverer gags. Instead, too often
TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP's camera is allowed to roll, roll, roll while its star exhausts his entire repertoire of puppyish movements and gestures.
But watching even a somewhat misused Langdon is time well-spent, and TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP has its compensations, among them a cyclone that almost terminates Harry before he routs it with an effete flurry of rock throwing. (Two years later, Buster Keaton would get even more mileage out of a
super-storm in STEAMBOAT BILL JR.)
Some have found Langdon's reversion to literal infancy in TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP's closing minutes a little creepy, but the bit in which Harry is apprehended for poaching is, in fact, a lot more discomforting. Those with a weakness for psychosexual symbolism are guaranteed to raise an eyebrow or two
at the scene's connotations of late-term pregnancy (the live chicken under Harry's shirt), scatology (the watermelon in the seat of his pants), and post-feeding-time satiety (his jam-smeared face). (Violence.)
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