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Monday, July 18, 2016

No Limit Of Una-Lloyd Joy!

Harold The Action Ace in Girl Shy (1924)

Those who were there will remember word-of-mouth the Bullitt car chase inspired in 1968. That part alone made it a must-see. Did Girl Shy's race to the alter do as much for 1924? I'm picturing schoolyards, office space, bridge clubs ... anywhere one who thrilled to Harold Lloyd's wow finish could share excitement with those who as yet had not. It wasn't a matter of selling something you thought was funny to friends who may or may not agree. This was breathtaking for anyone with a pulse. In the name of comedy, Lloyd had outdone all of action men, including Fairbanks, Mix, the lot. He also relaxed gags in service to romance, putting his love exchange with Jobyna Ralston among most affecting done by movies that year. Harold Lloyd had become a figure longing hearts could identify with, and that popularized him across boards of age and gender. Can someone confirm or deny that Lloyd was liked best of all comedians by 20's women? Based on evidence like Girl Shy, I'm betting he was.

Hal Roach said that Lloyd was not naturally funny, more an actor who played comedy. Lloyd himself may have agreed, but not to be ignored is amazing physicality he lent pell-mell set-pieces like in Girl Shy. Fresh look at that (recently on TCM) tempts me to place Harold near Buster Keaton's rung, not forgetting ten finger advantage Buster and other stunt comics had. Lloyd blasting off half a hand didn't slow him. Harold's offscreen triumph over adversity mirrors onscreen never-say-die that Keaton displayed, but then all of best comedians shared ultra-initiative in face of obstacles. I'd say Lloyd had a most of it in real life, even if his in an end was most charmed (wealthy the whole way, no ruinous vices, well-regarded by Hollywood and larger community, thanks to Shriner work). Lloyd was a consummate builder of great comedy, using tools and personnel to get a job best done. He wasn't hobbled by "genius" label that forced Chaplin to make all ideas seem his own, even as writers labored in guise of "assistants." Lloyd, like Keaton, spread credit around and never laid claim to all of gag creation.

One topic Lloyd fudged was doubling used for some of climb thrills. Better experts than me can tell what part of Girl Shy's race saw him stunted by others. Again it wasn't ego that kept Lloyd quiet. A big part of sales hinged on real peril he exposed himself to. Harold was the Houdini of funny men, worth buying a ticket for just to see if he'll survive a latest ordeal. He and westerner Tom Mix were unique for personal danger as part/parcel of picture-making. The 20's was an era for daredevils. Do we still have such appetite for lives at risk? A last to laugh at death that I recall was Evel Knievel, but maybe there are a hundred as brave on daily TV, a likelihood given our hundreds of channels. Maybe it's tougher for chance-takers to become really famous, especially if there's glut of them. Do we now live in a world overpopulated with Harold Lloyds?

Change-of-pace Girl Shy slowed speed from gag-a-minute of past Lloyds, that a gamble for first independent effort this was (previous HL's were for Hal Roach). Just as he donned glasses to normalize, so now would Harold soften pace to let us better empathize with his alter-ego. He would henceforth be "Harold," perhaps "Hubby" (Hot Water) or as in Girl Shy, "The Poor Boy," each interchangeable. Lloyd led polls for comedy most liked at its peak, which makes his going out of fashion by the 30's so much the more ironic. Girl Shy and all of Lloyd strike me as sunniest fun-making on 20's record. Does anything of the era put us so close to the streets of Los Angeles he used? Nowhere else do I feel warmth of California sun as from Lloyd comedy gone outdoors, closest second the silent-era Laurel-Hardys shot on streets of Culver City, though Lloyd's have advantage of better surviving elements, especially Blu-Ray re-boots as one-by-one issued by Criterion (not Girl Shy yet, though it'll sure be along in time).

More Harold Lloyd at Greenbriar Archive: Harold's Home Movies, An Eastern Westerner, Ask Father, Safety Last, Bumping Into Broadway, and Speedy.


Blogger Dave K said...

Well, Buster only had a nine and a half finger advantage, since he was missing a portion of one his index fingers.

Lloyd was still alive when THE GRADUATE opened. Would he have been the only one to note the similarity with the bride-rescuing finale?

9:18 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

Those who don't think Harold Lloyd was that talented of a comedian need to watch the two Hal Roach features that were on the boards for Lloyd when he split from the studio. Roach made them with a newly discovered Glenn Tryon and released them in 1924. THE WHITE SHEEP and THE BATTLING ORIOLES both have their moments, and Tryon is not bad in them, but you spend the entire of both movies missing Harold Lloyd and you immediately realize what he brings to the party in terms of comic presence and ability.

That said, I've always felt Harold Lloyd was also the most cold, uncaring, and self-absorbed of the comedians, despite his sentimental attitude towards his own character, and GIRL SHY's race-to-the-finish climax is one of the finest examples I point to in this argument. Basically, Lloyd has managed to run a high-speed and dangerous race through a city, demolished a number of people's livelihood and risked the lives of innumerable folk to get to the church, when a phone call or a telegram could have had the same result. I've always thought the film should really end with the police dragging him off in hand-cuffs after he makes it to the church and stops the wedding.

I love Harold Lloyd's films, but he was truly the rich-man comedian, sure you can make it on your own with pluck, vim, vigor and your brain, as long as you don't care how many other people you use or stomp over to get there.


9:28 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Surely the last of the great "thrill comics" was Jackie Chan, who copied the clock gag from SAFETY LAST and the falling house from STEAMBOAT BILL JR in his movies, and often cited Keaton as his inspiration. There's a shot in MR. NICE GUY where Chan, thinking he has eluded the bad guys, goes from a run to a casual walk, only to gradually realize they've reappeared behind him and break into a run again. The staging and Chan's body language are eerily Keatonesque.

12:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon considers Lloyd and comedian peers ... (Part One)

Hi John,

Read and enjoyed your post about Lloyd, and though I'm way behind you catching up with his movies, I've seen a couple of them at least and I agree with all you say. There is a wonderful common man thing there that Keaton's living caricature, determinedly glum even as his actions underscore perseverance and resilience, admirable qualities, but very little to relate to otherwise. Chaplin's my favorite, but many are put off by his slightly epicene mannerisms and the near-balletic impulses he always indulged (whereas I don't mind them at all!) I see something akin the gamut of human experience in Chaplin's' body of work which is not something I'd say for what I know of Lloyd nor Keaton. Keaton's reemergence had the usual American quality of the over-swinging pendulum, albeit he definitely deserved it, especially to those old enough (like ME) to remember him alive, appearing as a kind of relic or throwback on TV shows ("Twilight Zone", e.g.) and TV commercials, with a last, small hurrah in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"---ironically directed by red-hot Richard Lester whose films today, to me, seem incredibly irritating and desperate in their pursuit of guffaws---vs., say, Keaton's! (And I have to believe he must have thought much the same thing. The wonderful short movie "The Railroader", made by Canadian admirers/filmmakers with LARGE input from Buster, includes a lot of documentary footage in which he's quite outspoken as to his convictions about what does and doesn't 'work' for screen comedy, convictions he certainly earned and also validated in his own best work, I'd say.)

I had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to see a bit inside the INCREDIBLE Harold Lloyd estate in Beverly Hills, as it apparently regularly rented out for film companies, photo shoots et al. I don't recall getting much past the reception area or foyer in the house itself, but that alone was a sight you would never forget. I remember the intricate inlaid patterns in the paneling, all hand-done, and still amazing in spite of relative neglect (e.g., lack of oiling or preservation work commensurate with its beauty and rarity.) I'm sure someone with a better memory and/or a real appreciation for architecture and decor would have even better-organized, better-informed memories, but I'm all I have, and I don't. I remember being able to see back into the property, and might even have strolled around a bit. I seem to recall seeing his outdoor swimming pool, and I say 'outdoor' because yes, I understand there was also a full-size INDOOR swimming pool, in the basement! I kind of wonder what shape that might've been in, generally, at that time, if it hadn't had regular servicing and care. Egghhh. But, I wouldn't know, either. My glimpses inside the only slightly faded splendor and grandeur of Lloyd's pre-income tax estate and home were limited to the decade of the '80s (appropriately enough!---the decade where the rich began to gobble everything up in this country via laws tailored to increase and shelter their reserves of wealth.) One of the things I worked on there was a pilot which never sold nor aired, which featured the great actress Mildred Natwick, and I was truly impressed to be able to meet and talk with her a little bit. Too in awe for it to go to anything really productive, but I still treasure that memory.

1:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Craig Reardon:

Lloyd was a great shutterbug, as the charming (?) old term was applied to 'an enthusiastic amateur photographer', and he fully embraced the 'new' technology of 3-D still photography which kicked off, as far as I know (and I stand to be corrected) about the same time as it did in movies, in the early '50s. Please correct me if I'm off-base. And, he amassed hundreds of Kodachrome 3-D mounted slides in special boxes Kodak actually manufactured expressly for storing such. His granddaughter (I think; could've been his adopted daughter), very much devoted to his memory and legacy, allowed a publisher to select some of the best of Lloyd's 3-D pictures and publish them in a terrific book I was lucky to notice when it was first available, and got a copy. Using a clever viewer included one is able to see each 3-D picture, consisting of course of two actual pictures printed on each page. See them in 3-D, I hope I made that clear! Otherwise, kinda no point. It's amusing that one of them, at least, features the young, up-and-coming Marilyn Monroe, in a bathing suit, lounging near Lloyd's pool! (Another shows Lloyd himself posing next to pal Bob Hope outside the latter's dressing room at Paramount. Possibly taken the same day is a nice shot of then Paramount makeup department head Wally Westmore, presumably in his own makeup room.)

1:28 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Although this film was released in the United States by Pathé, it was actually distributed in the rest of the world by Paramount. In Latin America it was exhibited in 1926, while it actually reached to Europe in late 1928.

Here is an ad from Brazil, dated May 1, 1926, with the exact date printed in the paper. It reads "A Pathé Picture, distributed by Paramount in Brazil".

This ad from Brazil, April 28, 1926, omits the references to Paramount.

And the previous day this ad appeared in Argentina, with no Pathé reference and the Paramount logo instead.

To finish... here is an important production image of a previous Harold Lloyd movie that was published when that film was released and no English language film historian was ever able to find.

6:04 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I'd be curious to know if Lloyd saw CAT AND THE CANARY, which offers Creighton Hale sporting glasses as the boyish, excitable hero. Glasses were (and are?) a universal symbol for bookworm, milquetoast, etc; were they common enough props that Hale wouldn't be seen as a Lloyd imitation?

While Lloyd in real life was decidedly a rich man, I don't read much into his character being oblivious to havoc in his wake. At one time or another all the slapstick comics inflicted major damage on innocent bystanders, often without particular malice or awareness on the part of their characters (filmmakers trusting the audience not to think it through). I recall a scene in THE GENERAL where Buster takes charge of an artillery unit with a cannon, unaware a sniper is targeting them. Each man he speaks to drops dead till there's one left -- and that guy has been watching it all. Buster, as if testing a theory, talks to him and of course he drops dead. Chaplin's brilliant clock scene in THE PAWNSHOP is at the expense of a poor soul desperate for cash. And then there's TWO TARS. Formalwear, parties, homes and vehicles -- only sometimes the comic characters' own -- were regularly trashed in the name of a laugh.

GIRL SHY takes pains to make us pity Harold, even as he wallows in self-pity. When convinced he's too much of a failure for the girl, he breaks it up by saying -- and trying to prove -- she's nothing to him. It's not a comedy scene; it almost hurts to watch him breaking her heart (and his own). Walter Kerr's "The Silent Clowns" gives a lot of ink to Lloyd's storytelling, titling one chapter "The Architect of Pity." Nearly all the comedians made some play for audience sympathy / affection, especially in the features. Lloyd seemed to rank sympathy up with the gags and the reality of the stunts, building it with the same care. DR. JACK takes a different tack by spending lots of time showing us what a swell guy Harold is; doing oddball good deeds all over. A single evening of rousing a poor little rich girl out of her languor didn't allow time for Harold to suffer.

And we get the hero saving the girl and then shuffling off, STILL pathetically thinking he's not good enough until the girl pulls him back. This is a touch we get from Keaton, Chaplin, and countless others before and since. It can be cringe-inducing; see the sobbing princess begging Jerry Lewis in CINDERFELLA. It can be just within tolerance; as with GIRL SHY and SPITE MARRIAGE. Or it can be skillfully messed with to mitigate the cheap pity ploy: The fakeout in THE APARTMENT (still, we last saw Jack convinced Shirley chose Fred) and the stunning realization of CITY LIGHTS.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Actually, Donald, I think Lloyd got pretty good at wrapping up his features with a minimum of the 'ick' factor. He's such a cocky bastard in FOR HEAVENS SAKE and SPEEDY that's not really an issue at all. And the final 'gag' in THE KID BROTHER is just plain sweet. The guy has captured the crooks, saved the town and, seconds before, finally settled the score with the town bully. But as he walks away from us down the path side by side with the girl he still hesitates to put his arm on her shoulder... until SHE swings her arm around ever-so-naturally around his waist.

9:01 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts shares some deft analysis of Harold Lloyd and his screen character (Part One):


A response to Donald Benson, apparently too long to send via the comments page:

Miles of difference between the way Keaton and Chaplin get sympathy for their characters and the way Lloyd's movies are architecturally crafted to make us "pity" him. Keaton and Chaplin almost never wallow in self-pity (Keaton never in any film under his control, and the MGM's don't count, they loved to humiliate and torture their comedians, usually demolishing their characters at the same time. Chaplin only once in the lonely New Years dinner scene in THE GOLD RUSH, there's no self-pity in the ending of CITY LIGHTS, Chaplin may be a little down-trodden fresh out of jail, but he's not wailing prostrate on the pavement about it).

Lloyd is far more casually destructive and even deliberately cruel to others in his comedy, and we're talking innocent bystanders here, not just the nemesis in a tit-for-tat battle Laurel and Hardy style, they get what they deserve. More examples: Lloyd basically destroys a farmers property in NOW OR NEVER for no reason that really moves the plot. His character in SPEEDY manages by his own cluelessness and self-absorbed reasons to take the trolley out and damage it, thus doing more to hurt the people he's trying to help save the old trolley line than the evil conglomerate does.

And one of the more disturbing ones, the scene in WELCOME DANGER where he continually kicks and abuses Barbara Kent, not knowing she's actually a girl dressed in boys clothes (hey, it's okay, Harold thinks he's only kicking a child), and he's doing it for no more reason than to be "playful". Being a talkie only makes the scene that more uncomfortable.

This is why my favorite Lloyd comedies are the ones where he plays a clueless rich guy who gets some sense knocked into him and becomes human like WHY WORRY and FOR HEAVENS SAKE, or THE KID BROTHER (which is actually a reworking of that Glenn Tryon Roach feature THE WHITE SHEEP I mentioned earlier) where he's low man on the totem pole and he knows it. Its the ones where his character is so self-deluded and/or is trying to keep up some sort of lie or pretense to succeed that I find annoying, but at least in THE FRESHMAN, the other campus kids are completely onto him and make him pay for it, and Lloyd himself later self-guessed that his crying scene was a bit too much of a wallow and cut it from the re-releases (sadly, a bad second guess, it's needed to show that he's really figured out that he has no one to blame but himself).

5:22 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Richard M. Roberts:

And the sniper gag in THE GENERAL is not a good analogy, it's black comedy gag, but Keaton is not being cruel to anyone in it's undertaking, to begin with, they are at war, and Buster's character is not clueless to what is going on around him, in fact, he is the only one who realizes something is wrong, and as it dawns on him, he even becomes more careful as he tries to figure out why these men are dropping dead around him. It's actually a good lesson in how to keep audiences on your star comedian's side when you want to do destructive humor.

It's perfectly fine to have your comedian wreak havoc of all dimensions for a laugh, just don't try to convince us that he's good and pure and kindhearted when the actions show otherwise. This is why it works better for Lloyd playing the clueless rich guy getting his comeuppance than the poor but up-and coming go-getter, it takes the responsibility of having to be nice all the time off his character, and the audience enjoys the take-down and sees the character grow-up and become nicer and they can come to like him better.

Hal Roach correctly described Lloyd as not so funny unto himself, he wanted to be a comic actor, so he seriously set himself up to learn how to do that, and as he became a star he bought and stole away all the top comedy writing and production staff he could get to craft his pictures, but because he was in total control, it meant that his judgment wasn't always 100 percent because his comic sense was learned, not instinctual. It really let him down when talkies came in, and the Jazz Age audience became the Depression Era audience and they gradually turned away from him as talkies came in, because he was too rigid in his formula to change with the times, and was getting too mature to play the same character he played in silents.

Film Historian Sam Gill told me a story once of when he was helping Comedy Director and Lloyd staffer Fred Newmeyer go through his still collection. Newmeyer pointed a finger at a group still of the Lloyd production team and said, "Now THAT'S Harold Lloyd!".

The point being, Harold Lloyd wasn't in the picture.


5:22 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Couple of stray thoughts:

Chaplin was Chaplin the great artist, but Lloyd was the CEO of Harold Lloyd Inc.

One problem Lloyd had in sound was that he was richer than God. So was Chaplin, but he was God, so he issued art on occasion. Lloyd, like Pickford or Colleen Moore, had struggled to be somebody, got to the top, and his need to work and prove himself was satisfied. He'd make a movie every half decade or so to test whether audiences still remembered him, but the fire to make something of himself was out.

Warren Beatty is in sort of the same position-- technically he's still a big star, because he's never faded from being a big star (as, say, Robert Redford has made a lot of movies no one has seen), but he also is kind of unknown to anyone under 40. He has a new movie coming out, for the first time since 2001. At some point being a star becomes a hobby, not a profession.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Response to Craig Reardon's comment, "Lloyd...fully embraced the 'new' technology of 3-D still photography which kicked off, as far as I know (and I stand to be corrected) about the same time as it did in movies, in the early '50s. Please correct me if I'm off-base."

3D still photography, invented as "stereoscope" (1850's) actually pre-dates motion pictures themselves (1878) by a couple of decades! Many of the stereopticon slides in my own collection go back to before the turn of the century.

12:01 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon answers Neely O'Hara regarding 3-D photography, and offers more thoughts about Harold Lloyd (Part One):

Hi John,

Read the string of comments on your excellent Lloyd piece today and saw the response or 'reply' to my doubting attribution of the early '50s as per the era that saw amateur 3-D photography enjoy a similar arc to its significant use in motion pictures. And, the gent who posted cited the stereography of almost 100 years preceding, and I must say, I really left myself open to THAT one! But, I'm subject to brain farts these days.

Of course I certainly do know about stereopticons and the enjoyment they must have brought people when they were new---that "you are there" quality, at least. Apparently, they were even used as a form of journalism, as in 'breaking news', as a photographer with the proper equipment hit what was LEFT of the streets of San Francisco after the Great Quake of 1906 and made quite a few stereo views, and that's only one example.

As you doubtless know, Flicker Alley's wonderful presentation of reconstructed/restored items gathered by the 3-D Foundation (hope once again I'm getting that organization's name right, shooting from the hip; too far to go downstairs and dig out the disc) included a number of such 3-D still picture materials, along with very early 3-D movie experiments, and even examples from the famed Sawyer Vue-All series that I myself well remember being popular items in toy stores when I was a child. In fact, I still have several sets, including the set featuring on-set 3-D photographs of the prehistoric creatures and settings constructed at Warner Bros. for "Animal World" ['56], a really wonderful unofficial 'tour' of Universal Studios dating back to about 1964 or '65 (with views of moviemaking activity including workers making or carrying props, as well as specific visits to the sets of things like "Wagon Train", "The Virginian", and "The Munsters"), and yet another trip back to Universal via "The Munsters", with a Sawyer 3-D photographer covering the shooting of one episode, "The Most Beautiful Ghoul in the World", which was indeed included in the Universal Home Video DVD set of the entire series....and, which I also remember seeing when it was new [broadcast]. Except!--the show was in B&W, of course, and as usual, the Sawyer 3-D coverage was in full color.

Sawyer used Kodachrome film to reproduce the frames for their 'wheels' that fit into their heavy, cast-in-molds, overbuilt viewers on sale in the mid-1960s and earlier. Later, sadly, they downgraded to Ektachrome film (flatter, less sharp, less snappy, and the color not as good), not to mention cheap, vacuum-molded plastic viewers. Way worse, they stooped to releasing movies whose "3-D views" were entirely synthetic, pathetically created by taking regular production stills, and cutting them up, and propping up figures and photographing them in staggered rows. Boo! I have one such, of the movie "Dick Tracy", which I worked on; and, the 3-D version from Sawyer at that time (1990) is a libel on their earlier, genuine 3-D photography-based products. For all I know, they went out of business soon after.

6:55 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Craig Reardon:

But, I know what I was thinking when I mentioned Harold Lloyd's passion for 3-D photography, but as sometimes is the case when I'm writing, because I 'thought' it, I didn't WRITE it! And, that is that I was really merely referring to the ultimately limited rage for amateur 3-D photography made possible by companies like Stereo Realist (I think was the name) which manufactured cameras specifically designed to be effective using regular 35mm Kodachrome film. A good friend of mine, visual effects expert Randall William Cook, owned such a camera and made many, many fine 3-D pictures with it. As I say, even a used camera would produce 3-D views using then-still-available 35mm Kodachrome film; AND, Kodak would still mount the frames in those same special 3-D cardboard mounts, well into the 1980s. AND, it had to be Kodachrome reversal film---for slides----not Kodacolor, for prints---because the Kodachrome views mounted in those special cardboard mounts fit special viewers for direct viewing. OR, you could use specialized slide projectors that accepted the unusual, elongated cardboard mounts, so that you could project the pictures and view them through polarized glasses very much like those used to see "House of Wax" in 3-D, e.g. So, that was really what I was talking about.

I was shaky as to when those 35mm 3-D cameras and systems first became available, and actually I found out the other night via comments made by either Rich Correll or Kevin Brownlow, in their excellent talk together included as an extra on the BD of "The Freshman", that that kind of 3-D camera system for the everyman actually started being marketed in the '40s, according to (probably) Correll. I also found somewhere else, possibly in the biographical entries at the IMDB, that not only did Lloyd photograph a young Marilyn Monroe in 3-D, but according to their information, "hundreds" (!) of beautiful models. In fact, Correll or someone privy to Lloyd's archives claims that the bulk of all Lloyd's 3-D photographs (thousands and thousands of pictures; Lloyd pursued his hobbies with a kind of mania) consist of beautiful, shapely models; and, furthermore---it claims---the bulk of them, nude! Ha!

6:57 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Three from Craig Reardon:

Not to be cruel, but elsewhere in the biography it refers to the sad fact that his wife became an alcoholic in later years. I don't know, but knowing your old man is taking 3-D photos of one after another beautiful 20-something woman in the nude might not have helped her out in that department. Then again? He might, in such a gigantic house, have somehow managed to keep this aspect hidden from his wife! Who knows? There's always the alternative of Peter Gowland, the famous glamor photographer (and, son of silent film actor Gibson Gowland, of "Greed"), whose wife actually assisted him. It was 'strictly business'. But, we know that with Lloyd, it was a hobby. Well, one thinks of the Howard Hawks film, "Man's Favorite Sport?" (Yes, the question mark was part of the title; but, it's a rhetorical question, as intended!)

Still, Lloyd in his public guise as actor and dynamo in his own filmmaking company is still wonderfully effective and even modern in his achievement. As I said before, he comes across by far more naturally and modern, taken all in all, of the most famous comedians of his era, both in his film persona and his manner. That's my impression.

And, one last thing! Almost mentioned in passing, one documentary (marvelous, like so many Criterion extras) on "Speedy" mentions that a very large simulation of a portion of New York City was built on "sixteen acres of undeveloped land Lloyd owned in Westwood". There's such a thing as being fortunate, and such a thing as being smart, and Lloyd was both. To have purchased sixteen ACRES of land in an area of the the city and county of Los Angeles which today might as well be solid gold (near UCLA) seems to have been typical business acumen of this particular movie mogul.


6:57 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The first time I watched HAROLD LLOYD'S WORLD OF COMEDY in the 1970sand every time after that I gripped my seat in absolute terror as Lloyd scaled the wall in the climax taken from a sound film. Watching him in SAFETY LAST silent is one thing. We are detached. Hearing his screams when he flubs in FEET FIRST is nail biting suspense. I knew that Lloyd did not die. Nonetheless that sequence really packs the thrills. The audiences I screened it for were equally paralyzed by terror.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Speaking of Lloyd as comedian vs. comic actor:

In the late '50s/early '60s Tony Thomas recorded a series of celebrity interviews for Canadian radio, among them Harold Lloyd. The interview was going fine, with Lloyd gamely answering question after question, until Thomas asked if Lloyd considered himself "a comedian or a comic actor." That utterly threw Lloyd. Long pause and the confused Lloyd repeated the question aloud: "A comedian, or a comic actor..." Then he confessed that he didn't see the distinction.

4:48 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer shares customarily brilliant insights on Harold Lloyd:

The comments regarding Harold Lloyd and his career are interesting and often insightful, but as to the question of whether he would have been a favorite of women film goers of the time, I think that the answer is decidedly in the affirmative.

There is a moment in "Girl Shy" where he's sitting by the river, thinking of Jobyna Ralston, when he sees her image before him. He's entranced by it, as though his own infatuation had conjured it into being, until he realizes that she's standing behind him and that he's seeing her reflection on the water. It is nonetheless a lovely metaphor, for love is at least an appreciation of the ideal in another. Lloyd and Chaplin were the two great comedians who expressed this understanding in their work. Keaton's chilly existentialism didn't allow for a close emotional relationship with anyone, let alone an opening of his heart in love, while Langdon felt a certain infantile affection, as a boy might for kind lady, but not the love a man would have for a woman..

As for Chaplin and Lloyd, however, there was an essential distinction. Chaplin's was a despairing sort of love, as though he realized already that he was unworthy and could never bridge that gulf would inevitably lie between himself and the object of his adoration. For him, it was an exercise in pathos. Lloyd never acknowledged such a gulf, except as another obstacle to be overcome. Unlike the others, he fought for the woman he loved, and not merely for the moment, but to demonstrate that he could protect and provide for her, and that he was worthy of sharing her life. Chaplin would read the sadness in the flower girl's face, as she recognizes him from the touch of his hand, and say, "You can see now?" It was a farewell. Lloyd would scale a tall building, win the big game, or drive an ill-matched team in "Girl Shy" to the very gates of...well, a church, but he would not give up until the woman he loved was his.

Perhaps it would have been only women of his time, with its particular values and culture, who would have appreciated such an homage as he provided them with in so many of his films, but if this touched upon some greater truth, then, for all I know, there are still women today who would smile upon such a man.

7:12 PM  

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