And if you think this is daring, remember he's holding on with a mutilated hand.
Harold Lloyd was one of the biggest stars of Hollywood's silent film era. Along with Charlie Chaplin
and Buster Keaton
(Lloyd is sometimes described as "The Third Genius" in reference to the other two actors), he dominated the silent comedy genre in the 1920s.
Lloyd started acting in high school. He made his film debut in 1913 and soon became partners with another up-and-comer, producer Hal Roach. Lloyd achieved fame with "Lonesome Luke", a fairly obvious imitation of Chaplin's Tramp character that nevertheless proved popular. However, Lloyd grew more ambitious and created his own persona, the "glasses" character that would be a movie fixture for twenty years. The "glasses" character, unlike Chaplin's tragicomic outsider and Keaton's somewhat cynical one, was more of an everyman, a determined, go-getting all-American type who usually got both the girl and the happy ending.
Lloyd split with Roach and became his own boss during his era of greatest success, the 1920s where he produced more feature films than Chaplin and Keaton. Unlike those rivals, he never took credit as a writer or director of his films despite closely controlling all aspects of production. His films during these years became famous for thrilling, elaborate stuntwork and long chase sequences, all of which were performed by Lloyd himself. Even more impressively, this was done after losing the thumb and forefinger on his right hand when a prop bomb exploded too early.
Lloyd attempted to adapt the Glasses Character for talkies but met with gradually diminishing returns and was essentially retired by 1938. He held the copyright to most of his features and was reluctant to show them in revivals or on television, and consequently his reputation diminshed over the decades. Some of Lloyd's features were released on video in the early 1990s, and a DVD collection of features and shorts was finally released in 2005.
Lloyd films with their own pages:
His other movies provide examples of:
- Banana Peel: The Flirt (1917).
- Banana Republic: Lloyd goes to one in Why Worry? and ends up in the middle of a revolution.
- Captain Ersatz: Lonesome Luke.
- Fake-Out Opening: Many of his films start with a misleading opening as a gag.
- Fun with Subtitles: To a far greater extent than Keaton or Chaplin, Lloyd used the title cards for gags.
- To the point that's it's almost overwritten, like Woody Allen (who was clearly influenced by Lloyd).
- Grievous Bottley Harm: In An Eastern Westerner, the heroine whacks a beer bottle over the bad guy's head. It shatters, but he has no lasting ill effects.
- Happy Ending: Almost all of them.
- Iconic Outfit: The horn-rimmed glasses, to the point where Lloyd could walk around unrecognized when he wasn't wearing them (they were strictly a prop, he didn't need them to see).
- Usually, though not always, accompanied by a straw hat.
- When he finally needed to replace the old frames, he wrote to the manufacturer, who sent him 20 pairs for free, as he was their best advertisement.
- Interrupted Suicide: in the short film Never Weaken, Harold decides to kill himself after a misunderstanding leads him to believe his girl is marrying another. It goes hilariously wrong.
- Magic Feather: The "magic amulet" in Grandma's Boy.
- The Magic Poker Equation: Played with in An Eastern Westerner. Harold sits down to play poker and naturally is dealt a full house in true Magic Poker Equation style. However, this is subverted when the guy sitting next to him is dealt a pair of twos—and surreptitously switches out his hand for Harold's.
- Nitro Boost: In the short Get Out and Get Under, Lloyd gives his car heroin to make it go faster. Presumably he was not all that familiar with the effects of heroin.
- No Name Given: When his characters weren't called "Harold", they were usually called "The Boy".
- Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Real Life. In 1919 Lloyd was posing for photographs with a prop bomb. Unfortunately the not-prop bomb exploded, blowing off the thumb and first two fingers of his right hand. For the rest of his career, including all of the intricate action sequences that were such a hallmark of his 1920s films, Lloyd performed while wearing a specially-made glove designed to hide his injury.
- No Stunt Double: Even after the injury above, this still applied.
- Real Vehicle Reveal: In one Harold Lloyd film, Harold is seen relaxing in the back of a rather luxurious car. Then he shifts position, the car pulls away, and it's revealed he's riding a bicycle.
- Reveal Shot: Harold Lloyd loved using this for gags and did it many times.
- Scarpia Ultimatum: In An Eastern Westerner the bad guy takes the heroine's father prisoner and demands that she marry him. Harold intercedes and rescues them before the girl has to make a hard choice.
- Sequel After several years in retirement Lloyd attempted a comeback with The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, a sequel to The Freshman. For this movie he teamed with one of the greatest comedy directors of The Forties, Preston Sturges, the maker of razor-sharp satires like Sullivans Travels and The Lady Eve. It was a disaster, Lloyd retired from filmmaking for good, and Sturges's career never recovered.
- Shout-Out: The scene in An Eastern Westerner where a gang of riders on horseback wearing white hoods charge into town is strongly reminscent of the Klan on horseback in The Birth of a Nation. Happily, in this film the riders in white hoods are the bad guys.
- Wag the Director: Lloyd was in charge of his movies. Of course, since many of them went down as classics, this is an unusually happy example of this trope.
- Wedding Deadline: Harold's epic race to stop his girl from marrying a cad in Girl Shy.
Harold Lloyd Shout Outs in fiction:
- The main character in the animated Atlantis The Lost Empire was a mix between Harold Lloyd and James Stewart.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In the episode "Emperor Joker!", one of the Joker's mooks is a huge, muscular version of Lloyd, with a prosthetic hand (he tries to punch Batman with it. Blink and you might not realize it's prosthetic).
- Futurama: Zoidberg's uncle Harold Zoid (voiced by Hank Azaria), a former silent film star, is a reference to Lloyd.
- Martin Scorsese's Hugo includes the famous Safety Last scene pictured above, and in a later scene Hugo dangles from a clock.
- Jackie Chan also copied the clock scene from Safety Last in Project A, as well as scenes from Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. and Steamboat Bill, Jr. and Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. Compare the scenes here.
- The plot of the film Cats Don't Dance borrows heavily from Harold Loyd's 1932 talkie Movie Crazy.
- Back to the Future: The climax with Doc Brown hanging from the Hill Valley clock tower. At the beginning of the movie, one of Doc's clocks is a Safety Last clock, with a Harold Lloyd silhouette hanging from the hands.