Ever since I was a tyke, I remember the age old discussion… who is your favorite silent film comedian? Chaplin? Keaton? How about Harry Langdon (kids, Google it!). Naaaahhhh. Now, I admit I was a Keaton girl initially, but during my film school years, my eyes were opened… to Harold Lloyd. Pull up a chair and take a listen to this week’s Thirst Trap!
Silent comedians aren’t sexy, you say?? Well, I disagree!! Read on, faithful readers. Read on. I dare you.
For those living under a rock, Harold Lloyd’s earliest film roles came in 1913, barely five years after the first movie studios relocated to Hollywood. He worked like crazy (movies were shorter and cheaper then!), accumulating dozens of credits. In 1919 alone, his filmography lists 40 pictures.
By the turn of the 1920s, Lloyd managed to escape from the shorts and adopted a slightly more leisurely pace with features. During the 1920s, he made some of his most memorable movies: Safety Last (1923), Speedy (1928) and The Freshman (1925) to name a few. In each one, he plays his standard “glasses character” and is typically billed as “The Boy”. Are these complex narrative structures? No. However, do you really want something like Inception when you’re reading the whole thing? Anywhoo… I digress…
Looking at Lloyd, the character seems to write itself. He’s the lovable everyman. He’s slightly befuddled, but is easier to identify with than the more intense characters constructed by Keaton and Chaplin. His character often finds himself pining after the female lead, but never fear… he always gets her in the end. And yes, he’s adorable. Does this have something to do with his chemistry with co-star turned wife Mildred Davis? Probably a bit… the two are really cute together.
While Buster Keaton is praised (rightly so!) for his intense stunt work, much of Lloyd’s work is a bit foggier to the sands of time outside of the film history community. Looking at some of the snapshots above, it is clear that the comedian is as talented with his physical work as someone like Buster Keaton. My introduction to his work happened with Safety Last and the finale spent watching Lloyd dangle from a gigantic clock is positively harrowing. Despite its early (and decidedly pre-computers) setting, it’s difficult to tell how the stunt is being completed, and it’s easy to tell he’s doing the work in some form. To give Lloyd even more credit, he did the stunts with a partial prosthesis on his right hand, having lost fingers in an incident with a prop bomb in 1919. Damn. Just daaaaamn.
Now, I make no qualms about my fondness for boys in glasses… however, there’s a little matter of Harold Lloyd sans his trademark look.
My reaction in gif form…
Anyway, not only is Lloyd absolutely adorable on screen, but any deep dive into his life shows just how precious he was as a family man. The Lloyd family remains incredibly willing to share his legacy. This includes miles of home movies and hundreds of family photographs (Lloyd was a talented and innovative amateur photographer). The pictures show the actor having a tremendous amount of fun (in the days before the Depression) with his equally adorable family. These are definitely #DadGoals. Even #DILF worthy, perhaps?
Haven’t heard of Harold Lloyd? Well, climb out from under that rock you’ve been living under and expose yourself to the joy of one of the most talented silent comedians. It’s great to finally see his work getting more attention, because he definitely deserves it.