If it weren’t for my New Year’s resolution to watch more old movies, I’d probably never have made time for this national treasure: Safety Last by Harold Lloyd.
Just as I don’t much like coffee or milk, but do like coffee with milk (in the form of a cappuccino), I’m not one for silent movies nor am I one to watch movies with the commentary track playing — but together they’re great. At least for the Criterion Collection Safety Last, they were. In Safety Last, Harold Lloyd plays a hapless sales clerk who’s in love and hopes to make enough money in the city to marry his sweetheart. When he writes her, he suggests that he’s got a high level job and is making great money. In fact, he’s barely able to make his rent. Her mother tells the girl to go visit Harold now that he’s doing so well. That’s when things really get out of control. It’s such genius how Lloyd and his cast pack so many laughs into a scene. What I really enjoyed was the commentary by Leonard Maltin and Lloyd’s archivist, Richard Correll. Though the film’s great, I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed it without all the tidbits and background. Some facts of interest:
- Lloyd got the idea from watching a dare devil scale a building. That man, a welder, is in the movie and in spite of having broken his leg, does a lot of the stunts and plays Lloyd’s friend, Limpy Bill.
- Lloyd lost his thumb and index finger a few years prior to this movie, but still does all kinds of climbing wearing a glove with the missing digits.
- Much of the filming shows Culver City as it was in 1922. They’d shoot with normal traffic going through the street.
- Lloyd wound up marrying his co-star, Mildred Davis.
Safety Last is still funny, in a way that movies just aren’t and can’t be anymore. Just a delight.