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Awesome Men Throughout History: Harold Lloyd

Ever seen a silent movie? Yeah, don’t worry, most people haven’t. Even though The Artist won Best Picture and all that critical acclaim and blah blah blah, silent movies are a boutique entertainment for hipsters and film majors, and occasionally their yuppie older siblings. Otherwise, they’re just bricks in the sidewalk of film history.

Harold Lloyd

Which is a shame, because they’re pretty fun, and some actors from that era, like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, have become film icons. However, one of the most prolific and successful stars from that era has fallen by the wayside in terms of mainstream recognition, which makes him obscure enough to include as an Awesome Man Throughout History. His name was Harold Lloyd, and he was a badass.

For one thing, he did all his own stunts at a time when actor safety was not high on the list of studio priorities. That picture of him hanging off the face of that clock? That’s really him hanging from a real clock above a real street, and the drop could have killed him real dead if he’d screwed it up. Appropriately enough, the movie he filmed that scene for was called Safety Last!.

And think, he filmed that in 1923, four years after he blew off part of his hand doing publicity photos for his buddy Hal Roach’s film studio. As I understand it, he was handling an explosive that he thought was a prop, and it wasn’t. Two fingers and eight months of blindness later, Lloyd went back to work with a special prosthetic glove that hid his injury. Things like that are why SAG exists, by the way.

But when Lloyd wasn’t damn near killing himself for the sake of comedy, he was making serious bank. He released 12 feature films in the 1920s alone (Charlie Chaplin only made three during that time), and became the highest-paid film performer of that decade, and one of the most influential people in the business as well. His tirelessly ambitious film character, who I would describe as a slapstick Horatio Alger protagonist, was a big hit with audiences who hadn’t been crushed by the Great Depression. Sadly, when that shoe dropped, so did Lloyd’s popularity, and the high price he demanded for TV airings of his films meant that his popularity was eclipsed by that of Chaplin and Keaton in later years.

Fortunately, Lloyd had other interests, namely photography. He was especially fond of stereoscopic photography, and took over 300,000 pictures with his twin lens camera, many of which were nude shots of some of Hollywood’s most beautiful women, namely Bettie Page, Dixie Evans, and Jane Mansfield. The rest were landscapes, street scenes, shots from the Beatles’ concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and so on, but the important thing to remember is that Lloyd got some of the hottest women in the world to drop their skirts next to his pool and pose for the cameras by simply asking. Let’s see dweebs like Ross Jeffries match that.

If you’re interested, you can find those nude photos ? and many others, I’m sure ? with a Google search, and Safety Last!?has been uploaded to YouTube. Watch it when you have some time to kill, and pour some out for those missing fingers when he’s hanging off that clock.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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