Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


What LA can be like


Today I was delighted to have lunch with the well-known photographer Harry Langdon. Go to his website and you’ll see that Harry has a long and legendary career as a celebrity photographer. He’s done sessions for people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, Ronald Reagan, Stevie Nicks, B.B. King, and so forth. But when a mutual friend told me some months ago that her photographer was Harry Langdon, I said:

“Is he related to the Harry Langdon?”

She thought he was “the” Harry Langdon. But I was thinking of the great silent-film comedian often ranked with Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd:  Harry Langdon, the gifted clown who had run away to join the circus as a boy, became (briefly) one of the highest-paid stars of his era, wound down his career writing jokes for Laurel and Hardy (and, once, substituted for Laurel in an “& Hardy” film), and made a total of 96 films. That Harry Langdon.

She didn’t know. She’d never heard of that Harry Langdon.

A  few days later she emailed to say that yes, he was the son of that Harry Langdon, and would I like to have lunch with Harry Langdon, Jr?  So, today, there I was in Beverly Hills pulling mussels from their shells while discussing senior with Harry Langdon, Jr.   Lunch today was on a near par with the evening 15 years ago I spent in the company of Eleanor Keaton.   I may not care about what Tiger Woods or Lady Gaga are up to, but summoning the distant celebrity past of the silent comedy era is something I can get into.

We talked for a bit and Harry Langdon, Jr. said, “You do seem very well informed about my father.” I told him how much I love silent film comedy; how it represents a specific style of comedy that cannot be done since the introduction of sound; how I grew to love it when watching it as a small boy with my own father; how thrilled I was in college to learn of the connection between silent film comedy, vaudeville, theatre of the absurd, and existentialism (Beckett, who grew up admiring vaudevillians and clowns, based Didi and Gogo on Laurel & Hardy; Keaton’s deadpan comedy of menace is purely existential; Beckett made just one film — and it was with Keaton as the star); and how wonderful and funny an actor I thought his father was. Finally I let the subject wind down because I was afraid I was starting to come across as an obsessive. But then Harry told me where he was last night:

“I was a holiday party. At Stan Lee’s.”

“You were at Stan Lee’s holiday party?” I asked.

“You know him? He made a lot of money in comic books.”

Trying not to do a spit take, and worried again about how I was going to come off, I said, “Um… the other thing you should know about me is that I’m a huge, huge comic-book fan.”

And then that topic went on for at least several minutes.

One Response to “What LA can be like”

  1. Dan Says:

    Glad somebody else remembers Hary Sr. !

Leave a Reply