Thursday, July 3, 2008

303rd Post - My First Harold Lloyd Post

The image you can see if you ignore what I am writing is one of the most famous in film history. For those of you who don't know, it is that of iconic film star Harold Lloyd in the film "Safety Last", released in 1924.

In 2006 I sold a bunch of comics to a local fan and used some of the proceeds to purchase the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, a 7 disc dvd collection of Lloyd's classic films. It was a bit pricey, a hundred dollars plus applicable taxes, but I have no children and little prospect of having them, so I live in the here and now and damn the torpedoes.

I had heard of Lloyd over the years. I had heard about the accident that claimed the thumb and forefinger on his right hand, forcing him to become a southpaw for the rest of his life. I had heard that some device had been devised to make it appear as though his right hand was whole. But I had never seen any Lloyd film, and certainly not "Safety Last.

This collection contains the short film Lloyd was making when he suffered his accident. The film is called "The Haunted Spooks", and what is fascinating about it is that there are scenes before the accident, some after, and some which contain a mixture of pre- and post- accident shots. You can hardly tell, even with the audio commentary turned on and telling you, where Lloyd is wearing the prosthetic and where his right hand is whole.

You know, Lloyd was more popular in his day than Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Having seen most of the films in this collection, I can now understand why.

Unlike Chaplin and Keaton, Lloyd didn't rely on funny costumes or outlandish makeup to make his characters believable and relatable. His most famous character, known as the Glasses Character, just wore a pair of glasses (with the lenses removed so that they would photograph better!). A normal-looking guy who would end up in extraordinary circumstances and have to work hard, using his head, to get himself out of the situations in which he found himself. This character was extremely popular in the late 1910's, and throughout the 1920's. But by the 1930's, with the advent of the talkies, and with the Depression on, that kind of pluck and determination and optimism fell out of vogue, and so did Lloyd. A wealthy man from owning his films and from investments, he all but retired after the 1930's.

"Safety Last" is probably my favourite film so far. Much has been written about the scenes where he is climbing the building. They used a real-life building climber for some scenes (it was a fad back then when a new building was constructed to have someone climb it). They used a stuntman named Harry Peavey for some. But that is Lloyd, with one good hand, in plenty of other scenes.

Another favourite is "The Kid Brother", where Lloyd plays the younger brother to a town hero, but it is Lloyd who saves the day. Very funny, heart-warming stuff.

Check out this collection. You'll be glad you did.


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