“He was just a young man who wore glasses. He kind of thought a little out of the normal group, though.”*

*Harold Lloyd (1893-1971), in an interview with the scholar Arthur B. Friedman.

CARI BEAUCHAMP and SUZANNE LLOYD wrote at vanity fair.com on February 18, 2021:

“…Harold lights a cigarette and, as the camera flashes, he playfully puts his lit cigarette to what he assumes is a toy bomb. The fuse, however, starts to burn. He drops the bomb, but a huge explosion overwhelms the flash coming from the camera, blowing a hole through the roof.

Harold is in bed with his head wrapped, his eyes patched, his arm in a cast. His right hand is bandaged. Doctors tell him he might be able to see again, but his hand will never function properly. Maybe he could be a photographer or a director, but not an actor. Visitors come in and out, and they include Samuel Goldwyn, who was a glove salesman before founding his own production studio. He suggests that his relatives, still at their New York glove factory, can come up with a prosthetic that will hide the injury. Encouraged, Harold is determined to be in front of the camera again within months. He and Hal (Roach) agree to slow down the release dates of the three films they have in the can so his fans won’t notice the lag time as he recovers…”

Kristin Hunt wrote at daily.jstor.org on September 12, 2019:

“…it took an unusual logic to solve the unusual problems he encountered. “In a great many of the stories that we devised, it looked like he never had a chance to succeed or he couldn’t overcome what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles,” Lloyd continued. “But he had great concentration and determination; and regardless of how hopeless a situation looked, he just seemed to keep going ahead and succeeded in the end.”

“Glasses” comedy centered on universal problems. Maybe he needed to make more money, or maybe his crush hadn’t noticed him. He would approach the issue with confidence and purpose, only for it to spiral into something much bigger—and much stranger. “With comedy, trouble is one of the greatest ingredients because there are so many variations to it,” Lloyd mused. “You take the newspapers. What is mainly printed in newspapers? Grief and trouble… I think they do that because people somehow get a feeling—well, they are all right now. Someone else is in trouble and everyone has enough complexities in life. It makes them feel a little better if somebody else is having difficulties, too.”

The formula is perfectly illustrated in Safety Last!, Lloyd’s most famous movie. In the 1923 feature, Lloyd’s hero (simply credited as “The Boy”) leaves his hometown to start a career in the city. His plan is to quickly climb the corporate ladder, so he can afford to marry his fiancée (“The Girl”) and move her out to the city as well. He gets a job as a department store clerk, but insinuates in his letters home that he’s landed a much more impressive position. Believing he’s already amassed a fortune, The Girl takes a train to join him.

In a desperate panic to earn extra money, he hatches a scheme with his roommate Bill, who has a talent for scaling buildings. If Bill climbs the exterior of the department store to drum up publicity, The Boy can cash out $1,000 from upper management. When the day arrives, Bill has to flee the scene due to ongoing issues with the police. As the cop chases him, Bill tells his friend to start the stunt—they can switch spots after he reaches the first story. But, of course, it doesn’t go that way. The cop is so persistent that The Boy has to climb the entire building, eventually dangling from the hands of the clock at the top of the store. It’s a heart-stopping image that implies imminent disaster.

The movie ends not with a splat, but with a kiss. He’s managed to scale a building, impress his boss, and keep his fiancée—all without breaking any bones. Naturally, the scene required some movie magic. In this case, the film crew relied on stunt doubles, a facade set, and skewed camera angles. Lloyd sold the illusion with his own dogged determination. The actor starred in an estimated 300+ films over the course of his career, making more movies than Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton combined. In that way, he was like the characters he created—a tireless worker who took on any challenge with a smile, and just a little flailing.”

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