Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Silents Please! Harold Lloyd - genius!

Born April 20, 1893, Harold Lloyd, one of the giants of early film would be 117 years old today!

Harold Lloyd is often remembered as one of the three greats of silent film comedy along with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and he was.

Harold Lloyd is often remembered as being the great stuntman of these three and of all time for the harrowing comic stunts (usually involving heights) that he pulled off, and he was.

But like all things that are this far in the past, I wonder how many folks who know these two factoids, have ever seen a Harold Lloyd film.

You really owe it to yourself.

He was so much more than just fantastic stunts, he was a master of character and storytelling too. He created his "Boy with Glasses" character and developed him over a decade and more, and the kind of sympathy/empathy the audience had with this character rose above the rest in my opinion. The pitiable soul of Chaplin's "Little Tramp" and the that-poor-schmuck bemusement at Keaton's stone-face were both personalities the public embraced and took a liking too, but the "Boy with Glasses" was a character they/we can all relate to on a personal level.

The character and world that Lloyd created was a much more real one to the movie-going public. And the plod upon "Boy Next Door" that would get himself hamstrung, could very well have been us.

Here's a quick sample of Lloyd in action in probably his most famous stunt...but instead of the 8 seconds you usually see of him hanging off the side of the building, you can see what gets him into the situation:

For more and more great stuff, there is a wonderful DVD compilation of almost all of Lloyd's surviving work with plenty of added features. This is the kind of stuff I love to view. I like getting the whole picture! Check it out here on Amazon.

Watching silent movies involves a whole different set of muscles than any other kind of viewing. There is absolutely no passivity in it at all...no potty breaks while you listen to what's going on...no running for popcorn! It demands the viewer be involved.

And there's nothing wrong with that. You SHOULD be involved no matter what you watch. If you're just looking to turn off your brain and kill some time, go outside and watch the grass grow.

At least you'll get some fresh air.

The really wonderful thing about watching these films is, like with all mediums, that first generation of creators had to find ways to tell you their story. No established shortcuts. No cheap tricks to saving themselves any work. Once you get those viewing muscles engaged, it's wonderful what they were able to "get across to you" without seeming like they were trying.

Here's another quick piece of Harold Lloyd in action. This was taken from his great film "Speedy" and put into a short snippet about driving in New York city, but still fun to watch. This time with a cameo by Babe Ruth himself...Harold is a taxi driver taking The Babe to Yankee Stadium:

If you're not already a fan of silent cinema, shame on you...we have nothing to discuss, you philistine! But if you'd like to, but aren't sure where to start...Harold Lloyd is as good, if not better, than any.

He's a big hit on "Silent Movie Night" down at "The Drink Hole". Jeffy's Angels think he's dreamy!

Thanks Harold! For all the hard work that you made seem so easy. One of the true hallmarks of an artist!


Mandy Higgins said...

I became a Harold Lloyd fan when I saw The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947). I loved the scenes where he takes the lion into the banks -- so funny. I liked the movie so much I wrote about for an online magazine. Here's the URL to the article: http://classicfilms.suite101.com/article.cfm/an-older-movie-worth-another-look-the-sin-of-harold-diddlebock

Jeff Overturf said...

Thanks for stopping in Mandy, I'll be stopping by your blogs in the next few days, always great to see a new face!

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