Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent era. Lloyd made nearly 500 comedy films, both silent and sound, between 1914 and 1947. He is best known for his "Glasses Character", an optimistic, success-seeking go-getter who was perfectly in tune with 1920's era America. His films frequently contained "thrill sequences" of extended chase scenes and daredevil physical feats like climbing the sides of tall buildings, hanging precariously from clocks, flagpoles and ledges. Lloyd did many of these dangerous stunts himself, despite having severely injured his right hand in a 1919 accident with a prop bomb. Like the other great comics, Lloyd was a driving creative force in his films, particulary the later feature length films, and became one of the wealthiest and most influencial figures in early Hollywood.
Lloyd, born in Burchard, Nebraska, started acting in one-reel film comedies in 1912 in San Diego, California. Lloyd soon began working with Thomas Edison's motion picture company, Universal, and eventually ended up with Hal Roach. In 1924 he formed his own independent film production company, with his films distributed by United Artists and later Paramount. Lloyd was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Lloyd married his leading lady, Mildred Davis, in February of 1923, with whom he had two children; Gloria, born in 1923, and Harold, born in 1931. They also adopted Peggy in 1930. Mildred died in 1969, two years before Lloyd's death. Lloyd's fabled Beverly Hills home, "GreenAcres" was built in 1928-1930, with 44 rooms, 26 bathrooms, 12 fountains, 12 gardens and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
By the 1940s, Lloyd was no longer active in the film industry. In 1947, director Preston Sturges brought him out of retirement for one more film, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock. The film was a financial failure.
Lloyd remained very active in a number of interests after his retirement from film, including important civics and charity work with the Shriner's Organization for Children. Lloyd was very involved with photography, including 3-D photography and early color film experiments. Some of the earliest 2-color Technicolor tests were shot at his Beverly Hills home.
Lloyd kept copyright control of most of his films, and re-released them infrequently after his retirement. As a consequence, his reputation and public recognition suffered in comparison with Chaplin and Keaton, whose work has generally been more available. Also, Lloyd's film character was so intimately associated with the 1920's era that he lacked the more timeless quality of Chaplin and Keaton, and failed to resonate with audiences in the 1940's and 1950's. In 1962 Lloyd produced two compilation films, featuring scenes from his old comedies, Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy and The Funny Side of Life (1963). These films sparked a renewed interest, and helped restore Lloyd's status among film historians. Throughout his later years he screened his films for audiences at special charity and educational events, to great acclaim.
Following his death, most of his feature films were marketed by Time-Life Films, but were poorly presented, with insensitive musical scores. The British Thames Silents series and HBO video re-released many of the feature films in the early 1990's on video (with new musical scores by Carl Davis), and these are frequently shown on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) network. The 1990 documentary "Harold Lloyd, the Third Genius" by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in 1990 also created a renewed interest in Lloyd's work. DVD releases of restored versions of his major films are expected in 2005.
Lloyd was the subject of a television documentary series, Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, which followed similar documentaries about the other two geniuses of the silent movies, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
The documentary revealed that many of Lloyd's high-altitude stunts were performed on dummy buildings above the entrance to a road tunnel. Lloyd was usually about 20 feet above the ground, but the camera was positioned so that the top of the tunnel was out of shot, and in perspective Lloyd appeared to be hanging above the lower road about a hundred feet below.
Walk of fame
Lloyd was notorious for using his access to get young actresses to pose for him, and in 2004, his granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd produced a book of selections from his photographs, "Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D!" (ISBN 1579123945).
Sony Pictures plans a remake of "Safety Last!" for release in 2006. Talent is not yet signed, but the producers are Jennifer Dana and Mark Gordon .
- An American Comedy (1928)
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