Harold Lloyd and Safety Last!

 

This entry is for the clock hang, which is always mentioned when people discuss early movie stunts of the silver screen. It’s amazing to note that Lloyd performs the stunt with only eight fingers, having lost two just a few years before, when a prop bomb exploded in his hand. I’ve heard several times that sometimes stunts are not fully planned out before hand. Jackie Chan certainly comes to mind, as someone who loves to explore the set during production to see if he and his stunt team can come up with gags. Harold Lloyd did this on Safety Last!.Safety last stunt

Harold said, “…we did the final scenes of that climb(clock tower) first. We didn’t know what we were going to have for the beginning of it. We hadn’t made up the opening and after we found that we had, in our opinion, a very, very good thrill sequence, something that was going to be popular and bring in a few shekels, we went back and figured out what we would do for a beginning, and then worked on up to what we already had.” A stuntman had verified after Lloyd’s death that Lloyd performed the majority of the stunts himself on the rigged facade over a small platform, which was built near the rooftop’s edge and still had to be raised a great height to get the proper street perspective for the camera. The size of the platform did not offer much of a safety net, and had Lloyd fallen, there was the risk he could have tumbled off the platform. Lloyd first tested the safety precautions for the clock stunt by dropping a dummy onto the mattress below. The dummy bounced off and plummeted to the street below.

lloyd-safety-last
Photoplay in the July 1923 issue, by writer Adela Rogers St. Johns.

Safety Last! was directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor for Hal Roach Studios. Interestingly enough, the film Back to the Future pays homage to the Harold Lloyd “dangling from the skyscraper” by having one of the film’s stars Christopher Lloyd (no relation to Harold) hang from a clock tower as part of the plot. The dangling scene was also referenced earlier in the film during the pan of Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd’s character) laboratory as a picture is shown featuring Lloyd hanging from a clock tower. In addition, a meta-reference appears in the opening scene of Back to the Future, in the form of a physical table clock which depicts the Safety Last! scene.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB):

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Facade – A facade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning “frontage” or “face”.

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