Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as the one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era. He made nearly 200 films between 1914 and 1947. His films frequently contain extended chase scenes and daredevil physical feats. Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923) is one of the most enduring images in all of cinema.
Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska. He moved to California, where he started acting in one-reel film comedies with Thomas Edison's motion picture company, before eventually forming a partnership with Hal Roach.
Beginning in 1921, Roach and Lloyd moved from shorts to feature length comedies. These included the acclaimed Grandma's Boy, which, (along with Chaplin's The Kid), pioneered the combination of complex character development and film comedy. Safety Last! (1923) cemented Lloyd's stardom. It is the oldest film on the American Film Institute's List of 100 Most Thrilling Movies.
Lloyd became an independent producer in 1924. His films from then included Girl Shy, The Freshman (his highest-grossing silent feature), The Kid Brother, and Speedy, his final silent film. Welcome Danger was originally a silent film but Lloyd decided late in the production to remake it with dialogue.
All of these films were enormously successful and profitable, and Lloyd would eventually become the highest paid film performer of the 1920s. From this success he became one of the wealthiest and most influential figures in early Hollywood. Lloyd was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. However, his go-getting screen character lost touch with Great Depression movie audiences. His popularity declined, as did the fortunes of his production company.
Lloyd produced a few comedies for RKO Radio Pictures in the early 1940s, but otherwise retired from the screen until 1947. He returned for an additional starring appearance in The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, an ill-fated homage to Lloyd's career, directed by Preston Sturges and financed by Howard Hughes. The finished film was released briefly in 1947, then shelved by Hughes.
Lloyd received an honorary Oscar in 1953 for being a master comedian and good citizen. In 1962/63 he compiled some of his silent comedies into two documentaries, World of Comedy and Funny Side of Life. He died in 1971 at the age of 78.
Here is a seven minute excerpt from the film, including the famous clock scene.
Or, if you have the time, here is the complete movie. (Take special notice of the brilliant visual setup of the opening scene.)
First posted: 12 January 2013