SAFETY LAST (HAROLD LLOYD, 1923, USA, 73', BW, SILENT)
Brussels Philharmonic – Carl Davis composer, conductor – Fred C. Newmeyer director – Sam Taylor director – Harold Lloyd actor
Music for silent films has been an enduring strand to Carl Davis’s career.
The Davis catalogue now includes more than fifty scores for this medium, including Flesh and the Devil, Ben-Hur, The Thief of Bagdad, Greed, Intolerance, Safety Last and The General, and has brought him international acclaim. Carl had the honour of conducting his own score of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Opera House in 2006, the first time a silent film had been performed there. Carl regularly premieres new work at the Turner International Film Festival, and in 2015 he presented new music to the Buster Keaton classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. Newly restored in 4K and featuring this specially-commissioned score from Carl Davis, the Cohen Film Collection's Steamboat Bill, Jr. returned to cinemas across the UK in September this year, with a first showing at the British Film Institute.
Harold is a poor country boy who comes to the city to make good – in hopes of eventually marrying his hometown sweetheart. Although he works as a department store clerk, he sends his girl optimistic letters that lead her to believe he is well on his way to success. So, on her mother’s advice, she packs her bags and goes to join him. When she arrives, he is forced to convince her that he is doing well. One day, Harold arranges to stage a publicity stunt for his store, offering $1000 to anyone who would climb the town’s tallest building. Even though Harold arranges for a friend, a “human fly”, to scale the building, when the stunt man doesn‘t show, Harold is forced to make the climb himself.
Harold Lloyd was one of the great comic stars of the cinema, a genius on a par with Chaplin and Keaton. He was interested in acting from an early age and spent several years with theatrical repertory companies. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1912 and made his film debut as an extra—playing an American Indian—in a 1913 one-reel film for the Edison Film Company. Then Lloyd found the idea that was to become his trademark and change him from a good comedian to a major star: the glasses. In 1917 Lloyd shed grotesque comedy clothes and characterizations for a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. In doing so, Lloyd created an American archetype, an optimistic and determined go-getter sporting spectacles and a toothy smile. Lloyd retained the “Glass Character” (as Lloyd called his comic persona) throughout the rest of his motion picture career, which spanned 34 years and over 200 comedies. Among his most famous films are Grandma's Boy (1922), Safety Last! (1923), The Freshman (1925), The Kid Brother (1927), Speedy (1928), and Movie Crazy (1932).