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

Happy 120th Birthday, Alan Mowbray!

Character actor Alan Mowbray was born Ernest Allen in London, England, 120 years ago today. Here are 10 Did-You-Knows about the veddy, veddy British Mowbray:

  • After serving in the British Army during World War I, Mowbray was awarded the Military Medal and the French Croix de Guerre for bravery.
  • After beginning his acting career in touring productions in the English provinces and later appearing in London’s West End, Mowbray moved to New York City. Once there, his money quickly ran out and with nowhere to stay, he lived for a time in Central Park.
  • Before long, Mowbray was hired to tour with the Theatre Guild. His Broadway debut was in a 1926 play called Sport of Kings.
  • In 1929, Dinner Is Served, an original comedy that Mowbray wrote, directed and starred in, opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. It closed after just four performances. In December of that year, Mowbray opened in The Amorous Antic. After that, he would not again appear on Broadway until 1963, when he was cast in Enter Laughing.
  • His stiff-upper-lip manner and posh accent were Mowbray’s ticket to Hollywood, where, with the advent of talkies, theatrical actors who spoke well were in demand. He made his motion picture debut in 1931 opposite Frank Fay, Laura La Plante and Joan Blondell in God’s Gift to Women. He played a butler.
  • He played George Washington in three different pictures: Alexander Hamilton (1931), Where Do We Go From Here? (1945), and in an uncredited role, The Phantom President (1932).
  • Mowbray was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild.
  • Over a thirty-year career in movies, he appeared in more than 130 feature-length motion pictures. He also was very active on television, where he amassed more than 50 credits in nearly twenty years of work.
  • Mowbray became the father-in-law of fellow character actor Douglas Dumbrille, who, at the age of 69, married Mowbray’s 28-year-old daughter (ick!).
  • He appeared in movies opposite a trio of actors portraying Sherlock Holmes: Clive Brook in Sherlock Holmes (1932), Reginald Owen in A Study in Scarlet (1933) and Basil Rathbone in Terror by Night (1946).

Happy birthday, Alan Mowbray, wherever you may be!

Alan Mowbray

Happy 109th birthday, Barbara Stanwyck!

The wonderful Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York, 109 years ago today. We admire dozens of actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but for our money, Stanwyck was the greatest of them all. Here are 10 BS Did-You-Knows:

  • Stanwyck’s older brother, Bert Stevens, was also a busy actor, with more than 400 credits listed at IMDb.com.
  • Stanwyck was of English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry.
  • Her mother died in a trolley accident when Stanwyck was just four years old. Her father then abandoned Stanwyck and her four siblings to be raised by other members of the family.
  • In 1944, the U.S. government named Stanwyck the country’s highest-paid woman.
  • Stanwyck’s relationship with her first husband, Frank Fay, is said to have been the inspiration for the 1937 film A Star Is Born.
  • Stanwyck attended high school at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, but dropped out at 14.
  • Stanwyck played characters named Jessica Drummond in two very different movies: My Reputation (1946) and Forty Guns (1957).
  • Stanwyck, who was very conservative politically, was a member of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.
  • Stanwyck started smoking when she was nine years old.
  • Stanwyck has no grave. After she passed away in 1990 due to congestive heart failure and emphysema, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered from a helicopter over Lone Pine, California.

Happy birthday, Barbara Stanwyck, wherever you may be!

Barbara Stanwyck