Saturday, August 2, 2008

Harold Lloyd is underrated

TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" salute for August 2 is Charlie Chaplin. It's probably heretical to say this, but I think Chaplin is overrated. Sure, many of his earlier movies are inventive, as is the case with much of went on in silent cinema, but later on, he got tedious. Watch, for example, the scene in The Great Dictator where Chaplin plays with the globe. It's not funny, and I can't help but wish it would end -- much like the entire movie. When the AFI released its 2007 list of the Top 100 American Movies, three of Chaplin's movies were on the list, with City Lights all the way up at #11.

Buster Keaton finally got a mention in the 2007 list; The General was #18. Keaton was snubbed in the 1998 list, while Chaplin has multiple entries in both lists. The bigger surprise, however, is that Harold Lloyd is absent from both lists.

The iconic shot of Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock in Safety LastLloyd is, of course, best known for Safety Last!, the comedy in which Lloyd, in trying to make good in the big city so that he can bring his girlfriend to live with him, gets roped into climbing up the side of a building to make $500. Even though everybody knows about the iconic image of Lloyd dangling from the hands of a clock, this is by far not the only good part of Safety Last!. Other things to watch out for include a very clever sight gag about Lloyd and his roomate dodging the rent, and an extended sequence of Lloyd trying to deal with competetive women in his job at a department store.

Lloyd's general character was as a bright, earnest, eternally optimistic man; a role that he certainly was playing in Safety Last!. But it's not just there that he would play it; another of his great roles is as The Freshman. Here, 32-year-old Harold Lloyd plays a young man going off to college who will do anything to fit in, and eventually becomes the waterboy for the football team. Of course, this being a comedy, things go wrong for the team, eventually requiring the coach to put Lloyd in the game. Lloyd, of course, saves the day in another very clever, very comedic sequence, and gets the girl (Jobyna Ralston, seen in the picture above with Lloyd).

Both of these, and many other Harold Lloyd movies, are available on DVD.

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