Nationality: American. Born: Burchard, Nebraska, 20 April 1893. Education: Studied acting at School of Dramatic Art, San Diego. Family: Married the actress Mildred Davis, 1923 (died 1969), daughters: Mildred Gloria and Marjorie Elizabeth (nickname "Peggy," adopted), son: Harold Jr. Career: 1906—acted with the Burwood Stock Company, Omaha; 1913—joined a stock company playing in Los Angeles; worked as extra at Edison and Universal studios; 1914—made several "Willie Work" comedies for Hal Roach, now lost; 1915—featured actor in Just Nuts ; 1915–17—made series of comedies, "Lonesome Luke," often with Bebe Daniels and Snub Pollard; 1917–19—made series of comedies featuring "young man with horn-rimmed glasses," often with Mildred Davis; 1922—began making feature films exclusively; 1923—formed Harold Lloyd Corporation; 1929—first sound film, Welcome Danger ; 1949–50—served as Supreme Imperial Potentate of Shriners; 1960s—produced two compilation films of his films. Awards: Honorary Oscar, for being "master comedian and good citizen," 1952; George Eastman Awards, 1955 and 1957. Died: Of cancer, in Hollywood, 8 March 1971.
The Old Monk's Tale (Dawley—995 feet) (as extra)
Samson (Macdonald) (as extra); The Patchwork Girl of Oz ( The Ragged Girl of Oz ) (Macdonald) (as Hottentot)
Love, Loot and Crash (Cogley—one-reeler); Their Social Splash (Gillstrom—553 feet) (as the Minister); Miss Fatty's Seaside Lovers (Arbuckle—one-reeler) (as masher); From Italy's Shores (Otis Turner—two-reeler) (as gangster); Courthouse Crooks (Parrott—two-reeler) (as Tom, youth out of work)
(in one-reel comedies directed by Hal Roach)
Just Nuts (as Willie Work); Lonesome Luke ; Once Every Ten Minutes ; Spit-Ball Sadie ; Soaking the Clothes ; Pressing His Suit ; Terribly Stuck Up ; A Mixup for Mazie ; Some Baby ; Fresh from the Farm ; Giving Them Fits ; Bughouse Bellhops ; Tinkering with Trouble ; Great While It Lasted ; Ragtime Snap Shots ; A Fozzle at a Tee Party ; Ruses, Rhymes and Roughnecks ; Peculiar Patients' Pranks ; Lonesome Luke, Social Gangster
Luke Leans to the Literary ; Luke Lugs Luggage ; Lonesome Luke Lolls in Luxury ; Luke the Candy Cut-Up ; Luke Foils the Villain ; Luke and the Rural Roughnecks ; Luke Pipes the Pippins ; Lonesome Luke, Circus King ; Luke's Double ; Them Was the Happy Days! ; Luke and the Bomb Throwers ; Luke's Late Lunches ; Luke Laughs Last ; Luke's Fatal Flivver ; Luke's Society Mix-Up ; Luke's Washful Waiting ; Luke Rides Roughshod ; Luke—Crystal Gazer ; Luke's Lost Lamb ; Luke Does the Midway ; Luke Joins the Navy ; Luke and the Mermaids ; Luke's Speedy Club Life ; Luke and the Bang-Tails ; Luke, the Chauffeur ; Luke's Preparedness Preparations ; Luke, the Gladiator ; Luke, Patient Provider ; Luke's Newsie Knockout ; Luke's Movie Muddle ( Luke's Model Movie ; Director of the Cinema ); Luke's Fireworks Fizzle ; Luke Locates the Loot ; Luke's Shattered Sleep
(alternately directed by Hal Roach and Alf Goulding, with several directed by Lloyd)
Luke's Lost Liberty ; Luke's Busy Days ; Luke's Trolley Trouble ; Lonesome Luke, Lawyer ; Luke Wins Ye Ladye Faire
Lonesome Luke's Lively Life ; Lonesome Luke on Tin Can Alley ; Lonesome Luke's Honeymoon ; Lonesome Luke, Plumber ; Stop! Luke! Listen! ; Lonesome Luke, Messenger ; Lonesome Luke, Mechanic ; Lonesome Luke's Wild Women ; Lonesome Luke Loses Patients ; Birds of a Feather ; Lone- some Luke from London to Laramie ; Love, Laughs, and Lather ; Clubs Are Trump ; We Never Sleep
(one-reelers as young man with horn-rimmed glasses)
Over the Fence (as Ginger, + co-d with Macdonald); Pinched ; By the Sad Sea Waves ; Bliss ; Rainbow Island ; The Flirt ; All Aboard (as the boy); Move On ; Bashful ; Step Lively
The Tip ; The Big Idea ; The Lamb ; Hit Him Again ; Beat It ; A Gasoline Wedding ; Look Pleasant, Please ; Here Come the Girls ; Let's Go ; On the Jump ; Follow the Crowd ; Pipe the Whiskers ; It's a Wild Life (Pratt); Hey There! ; Kicked Out ; The Non-Stop Kid (as the boy); Two-Gun Gussie (as Harold); Fireman, Save My Child ; The City Slicker (as Harold); Sic 'em Towser ; Somewhere in Turkey ; Are Crooks Dishonest? (as Jitney Jim); An Ozark Romance ; Kicking the Germ out of Germany ; That's Him ; Bride and Gloom ; Two Scrambled ; Bees in His Bonnet ; Swing Your Partners ; Why Pick on Me? (as the boy); Nothing but Trouble ; Hear 'em Rave ; Take a Chance ; She Loves Me Not
Wanted—$5000 ; Going! Going! Gone! ; Ask Father (as the boy); On the Fire ( The Chef ) (Roach) (as Winkle); I'm on My Way (as the boy); Look Out Below ; The Dutiful Dub ; Next Aisle Over ; A Sammy in Siberia ; Just Dropped In ; Crack Your Heels ; Ring Up the Curtain (as the boy); Young Mr. Jazz ; Si, Senor ; Before Breakfast ; The Marathon ; Back to the Woods ; Pistols for Breakfast ; Swat the Crook ; Off the Trolley ; Spring Fever (as Billy); Billy Blazes, Esq ; Just Neighbors (as the boy); At the Old Stage Door ; Never Touched Me (as the boy); A Jazzed Honeymoon ; Count Your Change ( Step Lively ) (as the boy); Chop Suey and Co. (as Officer Harold); Heap Big Chief ; Don't Shove (as the boy); Be My Wife ; The Rajah ; He Leads, Others Follow ; Soft Money ; Count the Votes ; Pay Your Dues (as the boy); His Only Father
(two-reelers, unless otherwise noted)
Bumping into Broadway (as the boy); Captain Kidd's Kids (Roach) (as the boy); From Hand to Mouth (Goulding) (as the boy)
His Royal Slyness (Roach) (as the American boy); Haunted Spooks (Roach and Goulding) (as the boy); An Eastern
Now or Never (Roach and Newmeyer—three-reeler); Among Those Present (Newmeyer) (as O'Reilly, the boy); I Do (as the boy); Never Weaken (Newmeyer—three-reeler) (as the boy)
Sailor-Made Man (Newmeyer) (as the boy)
Grandma's Boy (Newmeyer) (as the boy, Sonny/Granddaddy in flashback); Dr. Jack (Newmeyer) (title role)
Safety Last (Newmeyer and Sam Taylor) (as the boy); Dogs of War (Roach—two-reeler) (as himself); Why Worry? (Newmeyer and Sam Taylor) (as Harold Van Pelham)
Girl Shy (Newmeyer and Sam Taylor) (as the poor boy, Harold Meadows, + pr); Hot Water (Sam Taylor and Newmeyer) (as Hubby, + pr)
The Freshman (Sam Taylor and Newmeyer) (as Harold "Speedy" Lamb, + pr)
For Heaven's Sake (Sam Taylor) (as "The Uptown Boy," J. Harold Manners, + pr)
The Kid Brother (Milestone, Howe, Neal, and Wilde) (as Harold Hickory, + pr)
Speedy (Wilde) (as Harold "Speedy" Swift, + pr)
Welcome Danger (Mal St. Clair and Bruckman) (as Harold Bledsoe, + pr)
Feet First (Bruckman) (as Harold Horne, + pr)
Movie Crazy (Bruckman) (as Harold Hall, + pr)
The Cat's Paw (Sam Taylor) (as Ezekiel Cobb, + pr)
The Milky Way (McCarey) (as Burleigh "Tiger" Sullivan, + pr)
Professor Beware (Nugent) (as Prof. Dean Lambert, + pr)
Mad Wednesday ( The Sin of Harold Diddlebock ) (Preston Sturges) (as Harold Diddlebock)
Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy (compilation) (+ pr)
Harold Lloyd's Funny Side of Life (compilation) (+ pr)
A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob ( The Navy Steps Out ) (Wallace)
My Favorite Spy (Garnett)
An American Comedy: An Autobiography , with Wesley W. Stout, New York, 1928.
"My Ideal Girl," in Motion Picture Magazine (New York), July 1918.
"For the People, by the People," in Filmplay Journal , April 1922.
"We Interview the Boy," interview with Gladys Hall and Adele Fletcher, in Motion Picture Magazine (New York), July 1922.
"Comedy Development," in The Truth about the Movies by the Stars , Hollywood, 1924.
"The Autobiography of Harold Lloyd," in Photoplay (New York), May/June 1924.
"What Is Love," in Photoplay (New York), February 1925.
"Harold Lloyd Tells the Most Dramatic Moments of His Life," in Motion Picture , December 1925.
"Hardships of Fun-Making," in Ladies Home Journal , May 1926.
"When They Gave Me the Air," in Ladies Home Journal , February 1928.
"Looking at the World through Horn-Rimmed Specs," in Motion Picture Magazine (New York), September 1933.
"Meeting with Harold Lloyd," interview with M. Calman, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1958/59.
"Interview with Harold Lloyd," interview with Arthur Friedman, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1962.
"The Funny Side of Life," in Films and Filming (London), January 1964.
"The Serious Business of Being Funny," interview with Hubert I. Cohen, in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1969.
"Harold Lloyd Talks to Anthony Slide about His Early Career," in Silent Picture (London), Summer/Autumn 1971.
Memoirs in Ciné-Magazine , 1930, reprinted in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 October 1980.
Cahn, William, Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy , New York, 1964.
Borde, Raymonde, Harold Lloyd , Lyon, 1968.
McCaffrey, Donald W., Four Great Comedians: Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Langdon , New York, 1968.
Lacourbe, Roland, Harold Lloyd , Paris, 1970.
Bowser, Eileen, Harold Lloyd's Short Comedies , New York, 1974.
Schickel, Richard, Harold Lloyd: The Shape of Laughter , Greenwich, Connecticut, 1974.
McCaffrey, Donald W., Three Classic Silent Screen Comedies Starring Harold Lloyd , Cranbury, New Jersey, 1976.
Reilly, Adam, Harold Lloyd: The King of Daredevil Comedy , New York, 1977.
Kerr, Walter, The Silent Clowns , New York, 1979.
Mast, Gerald, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies , Chicago, rev. ed., 1979.
Tichy, Wolfram, Harold Lloyd , Frankfurt, 1979.
Dardis, Tom, Harold Lloyd: The Man on the Clock , New York, 1983.
D'Agostino, Annette M., Harold Lloyd: A Bio-Bibliography , Westport, Connecticut, 1994.
Leigh, Anabel, "Specs without Glass," in Photoplay (New York), January 1920.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "What about Harold Lloyd," in Photoplay (New York), August 1922.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "How Lloyd Made Safety Last ," in Photoplay (New York), July 1923.
Taylor, Sam, "Directing Harold Lloyd," in Motion Picture Director , November 1925.
Sherwood, Robert E., "The Perennial Freshman," in New Yorker , 30 January 1926.
Current Biography 1949 , New York, 1949.
Agee, James, "Boy," in Life (New York), 5 September 1949.
Garringer, Nelson E., "Harold Lloyd Made a Fortune by Combining Comedy and Thrills," in Films in Review (New York), August/September 1962.
Borde, Raymonde, "L'Insolence de Harold Lloyd," in Positif (Paris) Summer 1966.
McCaffrey, Donald W., "The Mutual Approval of Keaton and Lloyd," in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Ill.), no. 6, 1966–67.
Obituary in New York Times , 9 March 1971.
Sarris, Andrew, "Harold Lloyd 1893–1971," in New York Times , 21 March 1971.
Slide, Anthony, obituary in Silent Picture (London), Summer/Autumn 1971.
Kaminsky, Stuart, "Harold Lloyd: A Reassessment of His Film Comedy," in Silent Picture (London), Autumn 1972.
Sarris, Andrew, "Harold Lloyd: A Rediscovery," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1977.
Lacourbe, Roland, "Harold Lloyd, 1893–1971," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 May 1979.
Kral, P., "Harold l'insouciant ou portrait du poète en jeune entrepreneur," in Positif (Paris), December 1979.
Fernett, Gene, "A Retrospective: Harold Lloyd," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), March 1983.
deCroix, Rick, "Fighting for Reappraisal," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), November and December 1988, and January and February 1989.
"Gripping Stuff," in the Listener (London), 15 February 1990.
Brownlow, Kevin, "Harold Lloyd: A Renaissance Palace for One of the Silent Era's Great Comic Pioneers," in Architectural Digest , April 1990.
Santilli, Ernie, "Harold Lloyd: The Overlooked Overachiever," in Filmfax (Evanston, Illinois), April/May 1992.
Champlin, Charles, "Silent Film's Third Genius," in Los Angeles Times , 31 March 1993.
Brownlow, Kevin, "Preserved in Amber," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1993.
Rivers, Scott, "Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), September 1993.
Siegel, Scott, and Barbara Siegel, "Harold Lloyd," in American Film Comedy , New York, 1994.
Bassan, R., "Harold Lloyd, ou le comique ascenionnel," in Le Mensuel du Cinéma (Paris), January 1994.
D'Agostino, Annette, "Harold Lloyd: A Comic Genius Learns Comedy," in Classical Images (Muscatine, Iowa), April 1995.
Hawkins, Geraldine A., "Lloyd, Chaplin, & Keaton: The Big Three Have Big Fans," in Classic Images (Muscatine), April 1996.
Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius , television documentary directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, 1989.
* * *
The sophistication and maturation of the silent screen comedy feature emerged in only a few years in the early 1920s—a phenomenon that came from the innovative efforts of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. As these three comedians graduated from one- and two-reel films, the scope of the five- and six-reel works dictated a need for a wider range of story material and a variety in acting levels and styles. An article entitled "Comedy Development," by Lloyd in the 1924 Truth about the Movies by the Stars indicated the actor saw the necessity of avoiding the same theme and type of film: "It is our intention to mix up the type of offering we will present. That has been our policy in the past, and it has worked out highly satisfactorily. . . . For no matter how great the appeal of a player, he cannot go on forever giving his public the same kind of picture, release after release."
As a very popular comedian in his one- and two-reelers, the actor first employed a character with limited dimension. From 1915 to 1918 Lloyd used an oddball tramp, Lonesome Luke, closely related to the circus clown and relied on wacky comic material that became the staple of a Mack Sennett slapstick short. When he switched to a character closer to that developed by the light comedians of the time—the young man next door—his acting style changed and his characterization became more appealing. A more realistic mode of acting became evident in his 1919 one-reel, Just Neighbors . The comedian developed incidents of frustration in the beginning of the film as he played a young man from the suburbs trying to catch a commuter train to his job in the city. The struggle of this character, called simply "The Boy," exhibited subtle facial expressions of annoyance, avoiding the broad body gestures of the earlier Lonesome Luke tramp character. Nevertheless, when Lloyd's young man gets into an altercation with his neighbor, a broad, slapstick fistfight shows a return to the comedy acting style of Lloyd's early films.
When Lloyd adopted the story material of the genteel comedians of the twenties—Charles Ray, Wallace Reid, and Douglas MacLean—he surpassed them in acting skills and the quality and quantity of laughable movies. In the development of a comic character in his first feature, Grandma's Boy (1922), the comedian could create a lighter, character-based humor of humiliation set against a stronger, broader, and ludicrous situation when his shy, withdrawn character metamorphosizes into an aggressive young man battling a villain. From hangdog expressions and wilted bodily movements the comedian showed a transition to a bold, erect stature of a man with a jutting aggressive jaw.
The key to understanding the comic character created by Lloyd lies in the leading figure's zeal. The enthusiasm of this character gives it distinction. Leading comedians of the time—Chaplin, Keaton, and Langdon—seldom used this trait in their comic characters. Lloyd, on the other hand, used this trait as the basic facet of his portrait. Some of the best comic moments of his films occur when Harold's zeal leads him into situations that backfire. His eagerness to be successful socially or financially leads him into the path of a rival who is a villain or into a scheme with many pitfalls. The comedian's acting ability comes into play as he attempts to cover his distress with a twisted smile. Attempts to impress a college clique in the 1925 The Freshman show the comedian exhibiting overeagerness to the point that he becomes the subject of the group's ridicule. As the character is humiliated, Lloyd provides a variety of humorous, pained expressions. But eventually the character's enthusiasms turns the tide in his favor. The fault that gains laughter is also the virtue that wins the victory. And victory quite often is achieved with the assistance of luck.
One of the misconceptions that has distorted the evaluation of Harold Lloyd's comic abilities is the view of some critics that he merely used a string of clever gags in his features—that he was in the same league as the lightweight, genteel comedians such as Ray, Reid, and MacLean who were popular actors in the silent features of the twenties. In the essay "Harold Lloyd: Comedy through Characterization" in Harold Lloyd: The King of Daredevil Comedy , Leonard Maltin refutes this concept. Maltin considers the comedian's acting talent to be an integral part of the characterization in the pictures he created: "For in order for that character to succeed as he did, there had to be a basic credibility . . . in his disarmingly natural performances. Like so many great performers who make their work look easy, Lloyd suffered the natural consequence of having certain critics believe that he wasn't really contributing much to his own films—that he was simply a likable fellow surrounded by funny incidents, and therefore a success by circumstance. This does a great injustice to a major comedy talent."
There is little doubt that Harold Lloyd has the credentials to be ranked as one of the kings of comedy of the silent period. A showing today of his Grandma's Boy , Safety Last , The Freshman , and The Kid Brother brings high praise from sophisticated audiences. Not well known are his sound films. Lloyd made the transition to sound pictures more easily than the other three kings of comedy: Chaplin, Keaton, and Langdon. Like the eager, adventurous character he portrayed, Lloyd plunged into sound films with Welcome Danger in 1929. Under his own supervision he did five more feature in the thirties: Feet First , Movie Crazy , The Cat's Paw , The Milky Way , and Professor Beware . His last feature in 1947 under the direction of Preston Sturges, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (renamed Mad Wednesday ), did not meet with Lloyd's high standards. Nevertheless, this forties film and his sound films of the thirties were a match for if not superior to other comedies created in these two decades.