Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#A-TO-Z CHALLENGE – LETTER “H” – HAROLD LLOYD, SILENT FILM COMEDIAN


HOORAY FOR HAROLD LLOYD

Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr. Born April 20, 1893. Died March 8, 1971. American film actor and producer, most famous for his silent comedies.

When I first contemplated participating in the A-to-Z Challenge this year and found myself on a team that was responsible for “themes” I realized that, for the second time in my nascent writing “career” I was going to have to do something besides winging it. By that, I mean, I was going to actually have to commit some remaining brain cells to coming up with something that looked like I'd actually formed a plan, or a theme with which to participate in an otherwise fun, challenge.



Harold Lloyd with future wife Mildred Davis, in I Do (1921). The kids are anonymous, I guess.

Last year, as is my wont, I jumped in at the last minute, made it up as I went along and had a ball. Although I was still dealing with untreated e.t. or “Parkinson's Disease Light; all the symptoms, one-quarter of the meds” or Parkinsonism, or a movement disorder, I could easily toss off a paragraph every day, based on a letter of the alphabet. The closest I came to planning the thing was creating a spread-sheet with the Columns containing the letters and the Rows containing the topics, only because I love to create spreadsheets, or relational databases, because I am a total geek and also because I had some kind of half-assed idea that I was going to hand the thing in to Arlee Bird at the end of the month for a grade, or something. This promptly went awry around Letter “B” when I had some inane thing like “Bravery” and decided to write about Beethoven's Third Symphony, the Eroica, in which he took the whole musical world kicking and screaming into the Romantic era from the Classical era, in sixteen measures flat, and we no longer had to play Mozart, thank the Christ!

So, Arlee liked that, but what does all of this have to do with Harold Lloyd? Not a damned thing! I'm just vamping here, because other than Craig Ferguson, I knew I was going to write about Harold Loyd, because when I was in college, and would come home in the afternoons, or wasn't playing a gig, on our local PBS station, there was a show called, “Hooray for Harold Lloyd” and this was the first time I had ever seen him and I thought he was hysterical!



Sailor-Made Man, Clip 1

There are a few other comedians and some authors coming up, that I plan to write about, but what I have been writing has not come across as screamingly funny and hilarious and that is a hard thing to convey, when you're trying to spread the love about some comedian or humorist, that is popular in these here Untied [sic] States. Most comments have been positive, but the last thing I want to do is turn off anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, so back to the drawing board, in a sense.



Sailor-Made Man, Clip 2

Harold Lloyd was a film actor in silent films, but he has to be seen to be believed. His comedy lies in the timing and the complexity of his art and it really cannot be described. Born in Burchard, Nebraska, and of Welsh heritage, he was named for his paternal grandfather. He and his father moved to San Diego after his parents divorced, although he and his mother and older brother, Gaylord (also an actor) remained close. Lloyd, like so many others of his era, acted in vaudeville from boyhood and after graduating high school and then receiving training at the School of Dramatic Art (San Diego) he started acting in one-reel film comedies. He first starting working with Thomas Edison's motion picture company, and eventually formed a partnership with fellow struggling actor and director Hal Roach, who had formed his own studio in 1913. The hard-working Lloyd became the most successful of Roach's comic actors between 1915 and 1919.



Sailor-Made Man, Clip 3

By 1918, Lloyd and Roach had started to build his character beyond an imitation of his contemporaries; Lloyd moved away from tragicomic personae, and portrayed his protagonists with an aura of confidence and optimism. Lloyd was never typecast to a social class, but he was always striving for success and recognition. Probably his most iconic movie is Safety Last! (1923) but one of his earliest and most interesting just for the short clips of sight-gags is Sailor-Made Man (1921).



Last Scene of Safety Last!

Unlike Chaplin, Lloyd did not have an “everyman” character, or persona. His style of comedy was driven more by sight-gags and slap-stick, with edge-of-your-seat will-he, or won't-he fall off the ledge, roof, clock, etc. Lloyd and Roach parted ways in 1924, and Lloyd became the independent producer of his own films. These included his most accomplished mature film features The Freshman (his highest-grossing silent feature), Girl Shy, The Kid Brother and several others. His final silent film, Welcome Danger (1929) was going to be a silent film, but towards the end of production, Lloyd decided to add dialogue.

Although Lloyd continued to make movies and produce them, he pretty much passed from the limelight after 1937, although he did continue to produce a few comedies for RKO Radio Pictures. His main contributions to comedy and sight-gags came early in his career, although he is recognized as one of the main contributors to the genre.



As his film career dwindled, he became more and more active in Freemasonry, where he had been initiated as a member in the Alexander Hamilton Lodge No. 535 of Hollywood in 1925. He rose through both the York and Scottish Rites and then joined the Al Malaikah Shrine in Los Angeles. Later on in his life, he was known for his charitable work on behalf of the Shriner's Children's hospital. Lloyd also provided encouragement and support for many younger actors, including Debbie Reynolds and Jack Lemmon. He died on March 8, 1971 of prostate cancer. 

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