I love the silent comics. Yes, I know the knock on silent filmstars, “they don’t talk, they don’t act, the just make a lot of dumb show.” (Kathy Selden, Singin’ In The Rain). But despite the strictures of the medium, they produced some great comedy.
And Harold Lloyd was one of the three biggies, in the 1920’s. Immanently recognizable with his round, horn-rimmed glasses and straw hat, Lloyd created a character as memorable as Chaplin’s Little Tramp, or Buster Keaton’s Great Stone Face. And just as Chaplin and Keaton had their own style of comedy, Lloyd had a trademark style, as well: frightening thrills mixed in with the comedy.
To say that Lloyd used buildings and rooftops is like saying that da Vinci dabbled in oils. A still from his film Safety Last!, is one of Hollywood’s most iconic images. A man hanging from a clockface over a cityscape is one of our most enduring images. But how many know the story that it comes from? Or that the film is a classic of silent comedy?
Safety Last! has Lloyd’s trademarks all over it. An engaging plot of a young man trying to make good in the Big City, trouble with the Law, and daredevil stunts that have the audience gasping with terror, all the while presented as a comedic tale. The American Film Institute includes Safety Last!, a comedy, on its list of The 100 Most Thrilling Movies.
And joy of joys, my readers, if any of you are subscribers to Hulu Plus, Safety Last! is on Hulu for streaming. With that, I’ll leave you not with a clip, but the icon, itself.