Tag Archives: Fred C. Newmeyer

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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Harvey Parry and Never Weaken

 

Harold Lloyd was said to have done all his own stunts, and that is mostly true, except for this notable entry. Harvey Parry, one of the pioneering stuntman, admitted after Lloyd’s death that he doubled for him in the most dangerous stunts in this movie and several others. Harvey said of performing stunts during the silent film era, “It was taboo in those days to say, “I doubled Harold Lloyd or “He doubled Douglas Fairbanks” because the public believed they did their own work. I doubled Harold Lloyd–who couldn’t stand heights–and he gave me every precaution I wanted in climbing buildings and so forth. The only thing I could not have was publicity.”never tumblr_njqmx6K3Gr1rdfgw4o1_500

When asked how stuntmen were hired in those days, Harvey said, “The casting director or somebody would come out and say, “Anybody wanna make $10?” They [the stunt men] never said, “What have we got to do?” They said, “Yes, I will”. The guy that was chosen would have to jump off a building, So he jumped. If he made it, fine. If he didn’t, he got free room and board in the hospital for a while.” Harvey was still doing stunts in his eighties before he died of a heart attack in 1985. Harvey was thought of to have taken part in over 600 movies as stunt double or stunt man, and is usually uncredited on IMDB, but was known to have doubled for James Cagney, Peter Lorre, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart.

 never cagney-parry_opt
Harvey Parry and James Cagney

Never Weaken was directed by Fred C. Newmeyer for Hal Roach Studios and was Harold Lloyd’d last short film. He managed to perfect his “thrill comedy” formula in this film and used it to great effect in his features, especially Safety Last in 1923 (more on that later, hint hint). Harold was brilliant at humanizing moments and then taking the audience to extremes. He once said, “The spectacle of a fat man slipping on an icy sidewalk never fails to get a laugh. The same is true of a man attempting to drive a nail and mashing his finger in the process, or a man with his arms full of bundles attempting to keep his hat from blowing off. These things are funny because they have happened to all of us and probably will happen again. They are trying experiences for the individuals involved and we sympathize with them. But we laugh, nevertheless because they are human touches.” Never Lloyd, Harold (Never Weaken)_02

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

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Visual Gag – In comedy, a visual gagor sight gagis anything which conveys its humor visually, often without words being used at all. The gag may involve a physical impossibility or an unexpected occurrence. The humor is caused by alternative interpretations of the going-ons. Visual gags are used in magic, plays, and acting on television / movies.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM