23 November 2016

Harold Lloyd, Safety Last (1923)

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“Who wants to fall three stories onto a mattress?”

On a Sunday in August of 1919, Harold Lloyd posed for a photographer. The set-up called for him to light a cigarette with a prop bomb -- the round, black, type you might see in the cartoons. The bomb wasn’t a prop at all; it exploded in his hand. It ripped open the sixteen-foot ceiling and left Harold blind and with most of his right hand missing. Doctors told him he would never see again. His career was over. 

But the doctors were wrong. Eventually, his sight did return, the scars healed, and a glove was crafted to hide his handicap from his public. The comedian, known for doing all his own daredevil stunts, felt his audience would be concerned for his safety and not laugh at the movie if they knew about his injury. So he wore the glove in every movie he ever made after the accident. 

“Safety Last!” was the story of an industrious fellow who climbed a skyscraper to win his girl. It’s the ultimate thrill comedy. Harold performed the hair-raising comedic stunt all by himself with only one complete hand. There were no fake backgrounds or computer graphics back in 1923. Strategic camera angles created the dizzy drops. At no time in filming could Harold have fallen more than three stories, but as Harold liked to remind his critics, “Who wants to fall three stories onto a mattress?” 

When the movie opened on April Fool’s Day in 1923 it was a huge success. Harold Lloyd was crowned ‘king of daredevil comedy.’ 

After filming “Safety Last!” Harold married his leading lady, Mildred Davis, and they raised three children together. Harold constructed an elaborate movie star home in Beverly Hills and called it, Greenacres.