Happy 124th Birthday, Harold Lloyd!

Comedy giant Harold Lloyd was born 124 years ago today in Burchard, Nebraska. Here are 10 HL Did-You-Knows:

  • Lloyd’s parents fought frequently when he was a child (due in large part to his father’s penchant for launching unsuccessful, short-lived businesses); they divorced when he was a teenager, after which Lloyd and his dad moved west to San Diego. In 1912, Lloyd, who’d acted on stage since childhood, began to work in one-reel comedies for the Thomas Edison company. His first role was a Yaqui Indian in short called The Old Monk’s Tale.
  • Before long, Lloyd moved to Los Angeles, where he became friends with aspiring filmmaker Hal Roach. Roach told Lloyd that when he was able to produce his own pictures, he’d make a star out of Lloyd. When Roach opened his studio in 1913, the pair began to collaborate on creating Lloyd’s first recurring role, Lonesome Luke, a character influenced greatly by Charlie Chaplin‘s Tramp.
  • Within a few years, Lloyd began to shift toward the character that is better remembered today, often referred to as the “Glass character” for the round specs that he wore. “When I adopted the glasses,” Lloyd said in a 1962 television interview, “it more or less put me in a different category because I became a human being. He was a kid that you would meet next door, across the street, but at the same time I could still do all the crazy things that we did before, but you believed them. They were natural and the romance could be believable.”
  • In his Lonely Luke days, Harold Lloyd gave actress Bebe Daniels his start. The credits usually listed Lloyd’s character as “The Boy” and Daniels’ as “The Girl.” The pair were romantically involved for a time. After five years, Daniels went on to a very successful career as a leading lady. Daniels’ replacement in Lloyd’s pictures was Mildred Davis, whom he wed in 1923. They were married until her death in 1969.
  • In 1919, while shooting some publicity photographs, Lloyd suffered extensive damage to his hand while lighting a cigarette with a prop bomb that he thought was just a smoke pot. The bomb exploded, and Lloyd lost his thumb and forefinger. He also suffered burns on his face and incurred damage to one of his eyes (luckily, his sight was unaffected).
  • Lloyd and Roach began focusing on feature-length pictures, rather than shorts, in 1921, and when the pair parted ways in 1924, Lloyd launched his own production company.
  • Though Buster Keaton and Chaplin are today considered the greatest comedians of the silent era, in the 1920s, Lloyd’s pictures made more money than either (in large part because he was so prolific—he made 12 full-length features in that decades to Chaplin’s four).
  • In the late 1920s, Lloyd built a home in Beverly Hills he called Green Acres that boasted 44 rooms, 26 bathrooms, 12 fountains, 12 gardens, and a nine-hole golf course. Though the surrounding grounds have been subdivided, the main house and the estate’s principal gardens are still there, and the estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • It’s been reported that Lloyd was approached to portray Elwood P. Dowd in the original Broadway production of Mary Chase’s play, Harvey. When Lloyd turned the part down, the role went to Frank Fay.
  • Lloyd’s post-cinema hobby was 3-D photography; among his works were portraits of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Sterling Holloway, Richard Burton and Roy Rogers. He also shot a good many nude…er, artistic photographs of more anonymous starlets of the day.

Happy birthday, Harold Lloyd, wherever you may be!

Harold Lloyd

Make a left at 1935…

Most New Yorkers we know get a kick out of seeing motion pictures that were shot in the Big Apple. It’s fun to watch for spots you know, to think, “Hey, I live just a few blocks from that restaurant—I had brunch there once” or “I used to walk by that store every day on my way to work.” And even transplants to the city feel like a true New Yorkers when we can spot continuity errors, when a character steps out the door of his building on the Upper East Side, for example, and rounds the corner, only to be on the Upper West Side in the very next shot.

Even more fun is watching classic movies that were filmed in New York (though most NYC-set pictures in those decades were shot on studio lots in Los Angeles). Harold Lloyd‘s Speedy (1928) is a great example of a movie shot in NYC, and Lloyd’s climactic race at the helm of a horse-drawn trolley that covers the length of Manhattan during the picture’s climax provides some terrific opportunities to see New York as it once was (and to watch for a few landmarks, such as the arch in Washington Square Park, that are still standing).

We’ve never resided in Los Angeles (though we’re not averse to the notion), but having spent a week at a time there on several occasions over the past decade, we find that we’re able to spot a number of familiar locales and locations when we watch movies that are set there. And, of course, site spotting while enjoying old movies that are set in Los Angeles is great fun. One of our favorite examples is the frequent appearances made by downtown L.A.’s Bradbury Building; that classic structure shows up in any number of movies, old and new, including the 1950 thriller D.O.A. (in one scene in that noir classic, Edmund O’Brien takes a head-first spill while running through the building’s lobby; when we paid a visit to the Bradbury some years back, we couldn’t resist taking a fall of our own as a sort of tribute).

All of which is by way of setting up the following video clip, which is stock footage shot in 1935 and meant, we presume, to serve as the background for scenes that were meant to take place in automobiles but were filmed in those studio-bound contraptions that were rigged to resemble a car’s interior.

The car carrying the camera that shot this footage starts near Canon Drive and travels east along Wilshire Boulevard through Beverly Hills. If you grew up near there in the 1930s, you’ve got a real treat awaiting you. If you didn’t, this may be as close as you can hope to get to experiencing what it was like then.

We can’t help it; we’re suckers for quick trips back in time such as this one.