Friday, 16 December 2011

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! (1923)

I was inspired to watch this again by episode three of the Prognosis Negative podcast, where Eric and Warren discuss Martin Scorsese's latest movie Hugo, which features clips from silent movies including "Safety Last!".

Harold moves to the big city, where he has sworn to make a successful career so that he can marry his sweetheart Mildred.

So determined is he to make a good impression on her, that he embellishes the letters that he sends home, and she soon believes that he has risen to the lofty status of general manager at the department store where he works (rather than his lowly position of fabric salesman).

When the store owner says that he will give $1,000 to anyone who could come up with an original idea to promote the store, Harold persuades his friend Bill to split the money 50/50 if Bill climbs to the top of the store without any safety harness. Bill has already proved earlier in the film that he is adept at climbing after a run in with a cop.

Their money making scheme seems to have hit a snag when the same policeman shows up to apprehend Bill before he can start his daredevil stunt. Harold agrees to pretend to be the mystery man that featured in all the publicity shots with his face blanked out, as Bill offers to switch places with him on the second floor, but things don't go quite as planned, and Mr Lloyd presents us with one of the most iconic images from the world of cinema.

There are some beautiful visual gags in this movie, the very first shot with Harold behind bars, the scene in Harold's apartment when the landlady turns up to get her overdue rent are fantastic.

This picture was made by Hal Roach studios, Mr Roach was responsible for Laurel & Hardy's greatest films, and he also gets a writing credit.

Harold Lloyd was famous for doing dangerous stunts, he climbed up a facade placed on top of a four storey building for the scenes used in the film, when he is hanging from the clock pictured above he was ten storeys up, by the time he reaches the top he is nearly fourteen storeys high. There were mattresses laid out on one side of the building, if he were to fall off the wrong side of the building he would land on the street below, if he fell straight down he would go through the roof below. Now all this is dangerous enough, but when you learn that he was missing the index finger and thumb from his right hand after a mishap with a bomb used as a prop in a photo shoot three years previously it puts a fresh perspective on things.

This is one of my favourite silent movies, if you haven't seen it, I would urge you to check it out!

No comments:

Post a Comment