The Kid Brother is a 1927 silent comedy film directed by Ted Wilde and starring Harold Lloyd.
Lloyd plays Harold Hickory, the youngest son of the Hickory family of Hickoryville. His big, tough father Jim is the sheriff, and his big, tough brothers are following in his father's footsteps. Skinny, nervous, meek Harold is not. When a medicine show arrives in town Harold falls for pretty Mary, who dances in the show. But Mary's partners in the medicine show—silver-tongued pitchman Flash Farrell and Sandoni, the strongman—are up to no good. Can Harold win Mary's love, defeat Farrell and Sandoni, and win his father's respect?
Considered by many to be Lloyd's best and most fully realized feature, The Kid Brother is also notable as the sixth and last film in which Jobyna Ralston appeared as his Love Interest.
This film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Achilles' Heel: Sandoni can't swim.
- Big Ball of Violence: This usually animated or comic strip trope happens in live-action when Harold has his final showdown with the town bully.
- The Brute: Sandoni, the thuggish strongman in the medicine show.
- The Bully: Hank Hooper seems to delight in tormenting Harold. For that matter, his father is jealous of Jim Hickory's leadership position in the town.
- Chekhov's Gun: The shipwreck seen in a throwaway shot at the start of the film is the location of the climactic fight.
- Down on the Farm: The setting is a bit vague but it's clearly a small town populated by farmers.
- Establishing Character Moment
- We learn a lot about Harold the first time we see him. He's at home doing the laundry, a stereotypically feminine task, while his big manly brothers are out felling trees. And he has a clever righ with a kite that he uses to dry the laundry.
- And we learn all we need to know about Sandoni the brute in his first scene, when he shoots a very creepy and lecherous look at Mary.
- Fully-Clothed Nudity: A relatively rare male example. Harold's hulking older brothers are waiting up for him, prepared to give him a beating after Harold screwed up and let the medicine show perform. They are dressed for bed in nightshirts that cover them up from the neck down to mid-calf, but they still flee in terror when Mary arrives at the house along with Harold. This is followed by a comic sequence in which the brothers dive around the house frantically looking for places to hide while Mary and Harold have coffee and chat.
- Fun with Subtitles: Or intertitles, as the case may be. Harold keeps calling out to Mary as she's walking away. He climbs a tree to call out to her again as she starts to disappear from sight walking down a hill. The scene ends with a title card featuring a tiny "Goodbye!" in the center of the screen.
- Low Clearance: Harold has Sandoni trussed up in the cart and is racing back to town. Sandoni, unseen by Harold, makes it to his feet and is working his way free of the ropes, when he is clubbed back to the floor of the cart by a low-hanging tree branch. Cue Happy Ending.
- Medicine Show: Mary regrets letting the show continue after her father's death.
- Mischief-Making Monkey: Sandoni's monkey. It provides a lot of comic relief in the fight scene on the boat, when it is determined to mess with Harold and reveal his presence to Sandoni. The monkey goes so far as to lift up the blanket that Harold's desperately trying to hide under, jump up and down, and point.
- Missing Mom: The absence of Harold's mother is not explained. Exposition reveals that Mary's father used to run the medicine show but recently died, but does not say anything about where Mary's mother is.
- No Honor Among Thieves: A fight over the distribution of the stolen money leads to Sandoni killing Farrell.
- Rabble Rouser: Sam Hooper, who accuses Jim Hickory of stealing the money and goads the rest of the townspeople into nearly lynching him.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: While protecting Mary from Sandoni, Harold grabs a stick which (unbeknownst to him) has a snake wrapped around it and waves it above his head. Sandoni, seeing the snake, flees. Then Harold sees it and quickly tosses the stick away. Then Mary sees it, causing her to shriek and leap into Harold's arms.
- The Sheriff: Jim Hickory. Harold's attempt to stand in for his dad doesn't work out very well.
- So Proud of You: Jim Hickory, after Harold saves the day. The look of astonishment on his face when Harold comes riding into town with the trussed-up bad guy is a highlight.Jim: Son, you're a real Hickory.
- Stick 'em Up: Harold gets the drop on Sandoni by staging a piece of pipe in such a way that it looks like the barrel of a rifle.
- The Unfavorite: Poor, poor Harold.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: The whole plot. Harold desperately wants his father's respect.
- Whole-Plot Reference: Not only did this film feature a plot quite similar to Tol'able David, with a meek younger brother trying to convince his family he's a real man, it also cast as The Bully (Hank Hooper) an actor named Ralph Yearsley, who played one of the bad guys in Tol'able David.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Mary's advice to Harold.