Silent Star of December 1995

Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska, on April 20, 1893, the second son to James Darsie and Elizabeth Fraser Lloyd. Elder brother, Gaylord, had a short-lived career as a silent film comedian, but found a permanent home as occasional assistant director and vice-president for the Harold Lloyd Corporation. Harold's mother died in 1941, his brother in 1943, and his father (who had a cameo role in Harold's Over the Fence (1917) in 1917), in 1947.

As a youth, Harold's chief ambition was dramatic acting - in his adolescent theatricals, he always chose the role of the heavy, feeling such roles 'had more bite.' It was in 1913 that Harold Lloyd made his film debut, in Edison's The Old Monk´s Tale (1913). Up to that point, he had dreams of stage dramatics - now, with money short, extra roles paid the rent.

Lloyd met fellow extra Hal Roach while vying for these parts - in 1914, when Roach inherited money and started the Rolin Film Company, Harold Lloyd found a home. It was when Roach suggested that Harold try comedy, that the dream of dramatics died. Laughter took over, but grew funny only over much time, and practice...

Lloyd's first character was Willie Work, followed by the more popular Lonesome Luke. Seventy-one Luke comedies were released between 1915 and 1917. Lloyd's dissatisfaction with comedy-conformer Luke led him to create the Glasses Character in 1917, and this was the character that was to achieve for Lloyd world-wide fame and immense wealth. He found his ideal character traits over time - his is a true evolution in comedy, for he lacked the valuable vaudeville training of his chief contemporaries, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe ´Fatty´ Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.

A tragic bomb blast - a thought-to-be papier-mache bomb blew up in his right hand on August 24, 1919 - almost closed a blossoming fame. Happily, with help from Roach and former glove salesman Samuel Goldwyn, Lloyd was able to hide his deformity within a prosthesis. Fans never knew of Lloyd's handicap, nor the fact that the man who was achieving his unique brand of comedy - athletic, enthusiastic, quick-paced - was achieving his goals with one and a half hands.

Harold Lloyd made his first Lonesome Luke two-reeler in 1917, his first Glasses Character two-reeler in 1919, his first three-reeler and his first feature in 1921, eleven silent features from 1921-1928, seven sound features from 1929-1947, and two film compilations, in 1962 and 1966. He produced scores of films, including A Girl, a Guy and a Gob (1941) and My Favorite Spy (1942), as well as a series of silent shorts by Edward Everett Horton in 1927-28.

Lloyd received an Honorary Academy Award in 1953, two George Eastman House Lifetime Achievement Awards in 1955 and 1957, and was elected Imperial Potentate of the Shriners in 1949. He was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 1927.

Harold Lloyd married his former leading lady, Mildred Davis, on February 10, 1923, and they raised three children, Gloria, born in 1923, Peggy, adopted in 1930 (d. 1986), and Harold, Jr., born in 1931 (d. 1971). The Lloyd family lived in Beverly Hills on their spectacular estate, Greenacres, from 1930 until Lloyd's death, from prostate cancer, on March 8, 1971. He was 77.

Harold Lloyd's legend lives on, and will continue to grow, as new generations are exposed to his genius. In 1984, his mansion at Greenacres was named to the National Registry of Historic Places. In 1994, Lloyd was one of ten silent film stars to be honored on 29c United States Postage Stamps.

Harold Lloyd continues to be recognized as one of the three supreme geniuses of silent film comedy. His appeal in his heyday was different than any of his contemporaries, for his character, the optimistic plucker who smiled and fought his way through all adversity, mirrored his audiences in outward appearance and in inward determination, in a way that no other comedian ever did. The fame and adulation he enjoyed in his heyday deserves to be reassessed and introduced to current and future generations. The Harold Lloyd Trust will continue to make Lloyd's marvelous body of work more accessible for the next and coming generations to enjoy.

His best known pose - dangling from the hands of a clock, stories in the air - is just one of a host of vivid images that the Lloyd audience member comes away with. It has been said that, once you see a Lloyd film, you want to see another.

If you wish to find out more information on the life and accomplishments of Harold Lloyd, check out these references or visit Harold site which contains just about everything you want to know. This is the site for Harold Lloyd information.

Glen Pringle /
Annette D´Agostino Lloyd
Copyright © 1995-2012 by Glen Pringle and Annette M. D´Agostino Lloyd
ISSN 1329-4431