PHOTOBOOTHS IN MOVIES & TV

Welcome Danger

Clyde Bruckman, Malcolm St. Clair (U.S., 1929, 115 min.)

Comedy genius Harold Lloyd's last silent film (and first talkie), Welcome Danger was released in 1929, after a very long shoot that saw the film begin as a silent and end as a somewhat awkward talking picture.

As the film opens, we see Billie Lee (Barbara Kent) stop at a railroad station to mail a letter, and, seeing an automatic photo machine nearby, she sits down, inserts a dime, and waits for her photo to be taken. The machine shouldn't technically be called a photobooth, as it lacks a booth, but the principle is the same. For Billie, the advertised thirty seconds go by, but no photo appears. She hits the machine a few times and eventually gives up, going inside the train station.

A moment later, Harold Bledsoe (Harold Lloyd) notices the machine and decides to take his own photo. When Harold receives his photo, he places it on the small drying stand on the left side of the booth. He puts his hat back on and take a look at the photos, which is an improbable double-exposure, showing him and a mystery woman together. As he admires the photo, Billie bumps into him on her way out of the station; a moment later, he picks up an item she dropped and hands it to her. Neither time does he look up from the photo, and doesn't notice that she's the woman whose image he has become so smitten with.

As the story progresses, Harold runs into Billie again as she's working to repair her car. With her jumpsuit and cap, Harold thinks she's a man, and when the photo falls out of his pocket, they look at it together. She realizes that he has her photo, and he tries to impress her by saying he's engaged to the beautiful girl in the photo.

Eventually, Billie reveals her identity, and Harold can't believe his luck. The film moves on, and near the end, as Harold is trying to figure out how to nab the master criminal he's been after, we seem him puzzling over the problem in his office, where an enlargement of their photo hangs in a circular frame on the wall.

Sharp-eyed readers may recognize Barbara Kent as Billie; she played Mary in Lonesome a year earlier, the film with the first appearance of a photobooth we've yet come across.

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Contributed by Brian