Sunday, February 19, 2012

Silent Sundays: Safety Last (1923)

Harold Lloyd’s widely known and most popular film is said to be Safety Last. Even if you have never seen the film or have heard of it you have most likely seen the picture of him hanging from the clock off the side of a building. How Lloyd gets to the point where he is hanging from the clock is a story that has been done since the time film began.
            Harold is a small town guy who travels to the city to earn money so he can marry a girl named Mildred (Mildred Davis). While he in the city he scrimps and saves money he earns from a thankless and menial job in a department store (haven’t we all been there once or twice in our lives?). Every day he sends Mildred letters and even saves enough money to buy her at first a pendant for a chain and then finally a chain. Mildred and her mother think that he has a position within the department store so she decides to go to the city to keep Harold company.
             The Mildred surprises Harold in the store he has been swamped by women pulling at him behind the counter for pieces of fabric. Fortunately by the time Mildred comes he has just put himself back together and the crowd has died down. He realizes that she thinks he is the manager so he pretends to be one. Quite a few times that almost backfires with hilarious happenings. He uses the general manager’s office as his own since Mildred wants to see it. She leaves her pocketbook in the room and when Harold goes back to get it he hears the manager say that he will give anyone a thousand dollars to create something that entice more customers to come into the store.
            Harold has just the stunt to pull: he saw his roommate Bill climb the side of a building to get away from the police, he tells Bill that he will give him five hundred dollars if he can climb the building. Bill has been built up as a mystery man who will climb the side of the building. Unfortunately the cop that he was running away from puts two and two together and realizes that Bill is the guy he was chasing. The cop goes to the department store and chases Bill up the floors. Now Harold is the one who has to climb the building. The scene gets intense but every floor he climbs he gets into the funniest situations. At the top Mildred is happily waiting for him and gives him a big hug and kiss.
            Harold Lloyd was adorable. I liked that his comedy was not over the top it was just right and to me that makes him a comedic genius. It is so easy for comedic actors/actresses to go over the top and yes I do know that this was the silent era and that all the actors and actresses were over the top with their acting but Lloyd was not he was always at the edge but pulled away.
            The famous clock scene is not really that long. I can see why it is so famous because it looks dangerous and I found myself sitting on pins and needles his whole climb but this is where his climb gets risky. It is an iconic scene that I feel most film lovers should see and know.

            The film is very clever. One scene that I found so clever was when Harold and Bill hear their landlady coming whom they owe two weeks rent to. They jump into their coats, hang the coats up, and pull their legs up. Another good scene is when he has to get to work and he sees an ambulance. He goes over to the stretcher, lays down on the ground pretending to have something wrong with him, and the EMTs put him in the ambulance. When the one EMT is not looking he looks out the window and tells the driver to pull over at the next corner. The best was the beginning: it looks like Harold is in jail with Mildred and her mother coming to visit him and in the background it looks like there is a hangman’s noose. Harold is just waiting at the train station to leave for the city. Great fake out absolutely genius.

            One of the things I really enjoyed seeing was the clothing. At the moment at the historical society I volunteer at our textile display is called Fabulous Flapper Fashions of the 1920s. All the clothes are from after 1925 which are the clothes that are mostly associated with the 1920s and the flapper fashions. Safety Last was filmed in 1923 women’s clothes were a lot more relaxed and not as restricting because the corset was pretty much phased out by this time but the fashion was still very much in the style of the early 1900s with large hats and long dresses. It is interesting to realize that two years later the clothes would be flat dresses with beads, sashes, and fringe. Women’s hair would be bobbed and they would mostly wear cloche hats. This era is very interesting for fashion and women.
            Safety Last was really funny and really really cute. I liked how Harold and Mildred’s love was cute and innocent and their kissing and hugging scene at the end was sweet. Safety Last is a fun, enjoyable silent comedy.