The early life of Stan Laurel While Stan Laurel was best know for being half…
In 1947 the film The Sin of Harold Diddlebock signaled the end to an illustrious career of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars of the silent era. While the movie itself was not well received at the time, produced way over budget, poorly edited and consequently poorly received when it finally entered the theaters under a new name Mad Wednesday, watching it now reminds me that there was another great clown out there that could hold his own with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. That great clown’s name was Harold Lloyd.
Back in his prime Harold Lloyd was consider just as funny, and probably more successful than his now legendary peers. During the Silent Film Era Harold Lloyd was the one of the first comedy actors to steer his onscreen persona from that of a clown towards something a bit more mundane and every day. At first, Harold’s first short film characters were very much in the same mold of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp, with oversized clothes and clown makeup. This boy next door character, whom Lloyd like to call “Glasses” because of the horn rimmed glasses that he wore, allowed him to explore the comedy hiding in everyday situations such as working for an ad agency, playing a game of football, or even falling in love. In fact, Lloyd is credited for bringing the romantic comedy genre to the big screen.
It was after his transformation that Lloyd’s career blew up both literally and figuratively. As his short one reel slapstick adventures turned into two reel romantic comedies, Lloyd would end up losing several fingers from his right hand when a stunt bomb he was holding went off. Donning a special glove that hid his handicap from the audience, Lloyd would continue to make screwball comedies and even performed all his own stunts up until the time he retired.
His screwball comedies then grew bigger, becoming full length movies by the early Twenties. In 1923, Harold left his most indelible impression when he was featured in the dare devil comedy “Safety Last!” In this movie, Lloyd’s character is willing to do anything to win the girl, even climb a skyscraper. The film’s success made Lloyd the king of the daredevil’s long before Jackie Chan and the image of Glasses hanging from a giant clock face high above the city is an image that people are still familiar with to this day.
By the late twenties Lloyd was getting paid more than Charlie Chaplin and was considered the biggest box office draw in the country. He even made a smooth transition into the sound era, with his first talky Welcome Danger (1929) his most successful film. However, when The Depression took hold of America, Lloyd’s can do character fell out of favor with the public. By the time The Sin of Harold Diddlebock was made, Lloyd had had enough with being a comedy daredevil and retired from film for good. While almost forgotten, history has been kind to Harold Lloyd’s comedies and thanks to the internet, his work is now being rediscovered and his name earning a place among the other great silent era comedians.
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