Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

He made a successful spectacle of himself

Cleveland Press March 12, 1971

The death this week of Harold Lloyd marks more than the passing of a great screen comedian. It serves as a reminder of a whole different time, a period alien to us.

Harold Lloyd, his eyes peering out from his lensless horn rims, was all innocence and naivety.

I doubt that any comedian (even Lloyd) could get far being naive today. Today's comic has to be with it. It's a jaded age, a complicated time.

Lloyd was the perennial adolescent, bewildered and ambitious and thwarted. It was and still is a universal trait-the ability to understand but be incapable of doing. Fortune favored him in the end and it was always a case of a nice guy finishing first.

For all of their fun and simplicity his films also showed as much daring as any adventure movie. Lloyd engaged in feats of daring -he never used a double -- that caused audiences to react with mixtures of screams and laughter.

Probably the most famous scene from any of his pictures shows him hanging from the hands of a giant clock on the face of a 14-story building.

There was no fakery in this. Lloyd did the scene 14 stories above the street protected only by an extended platform two floors beneath him. This was the 1923 movie, 'Safety Last."

It was this contrast of a quiet shy, sympathetic character with dangerous situations that marked much of his comedy.

HIS FIRST FILMS were one-reel comedies about a character called Lonesome Luke. Luke was a country bumbkin who wore clothes too small for him. The character appeared in about 100 one-reelers.

Even then there was an element of daring in his work and the Luke comedies, according to Lloyd's published recollections, " . . . always ended in 200 feet of chase. I was pursued by dogs, sheriffs, angry housewives, circus tigers, motor cars, baby carriages, wild bulls, trolleys, locomotives and, of course legions of cops. "

In 1915 he donned his 10-cent glassless spectacles. They became his trademark and he became a new character. The pictures became longer, two reels, then five reels or more.

BY THE TIME he retired in 1945 Lloyd appeared in approximately 500 pictures. At its peak his earnings were estimated at $2,000,000 a year and that in a period of low income taxes.

He put much of his money into real estate and he wisely owned most of his own films. His fortune has been variously estimated at $10,000,000 to $30,000,000.

Lloyd may have been simple on screen but privately he was a wise operator. Maybe innocence does pay.