safety last! (fred c. newmeyer and sam taylor, 1923)
Tuesday, May 04, 2021
This is the thirty-third film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 33 is called "Hosts Past and Present Week".
Another Season Challenge has come and gone. As always, we must pay tribute to the hosts of Season's past for creating and maintaining the Challenge before I got my grubby mitts on it. Last year I had this separated into two weeks, but I figured I'd condense them to make room for another challenge. I hope you've enjoyed your time during this Season Challenge, and I look forward to seeing you all next time!
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from either Monsieur Flynn's Movies to See Before Your End Credits list, kurt k's Personal Cannon list, or my own A Hundred or So of My Favorites list.
This was my very first Harold Lloyd movie, which amazes me, considering how many Keaton and Chaplin silents I've seen. I don't know how typical Safety Last! is of his work, so I hesitate to draw conclusions about Lloyd just yet. But there were a few things that struck me as different compared to the other two silent comedians.
First, I wasn't prepared for the way Lloyd (who plays a character listed as "The Boy", but whose name on his paycheck reads "Harold Lloyd") is a fairly normal guy. Chaplin is the Tramp, milking the sentimentality and always good for some thoughtful visual gags. Keaton, my favorite, is the blank-face existential hero. Lloyd? He's a guy, "The Boy", and no more than that. In Safety Last!, he wants to prove himself to his prospective wife, so he goes to the big city to get an impressive job. Chaplin might have wanted to impress a girl, but he was always going to be The Tramp. Keaton's relationship to women was complicated to say the least ... think of Seven Chances, with Buster, running away from hordes of prospective wives, starting an avalanche in the process. Lloyd is much less neurotic than Keaton. More than the others, he is an Everyman.
His stunts, which are what he remains famous for, are less chaotic than Keaton's. Keaton planned his stunts tightly, but they often looked as if he'd just thrown them together, or like they had happened while the camera was rolling. Lloyd lets us see the planning. It's one of the reasons he is so impressive, but I think he lacks the edge of the others. His most famous gag, which appears in Safety Last!, is amazing, a talking point well past when you've seen the film (that he is still remembered for it almost 100 years later speaks for itself), and it always looks perfectly planned. This takes nothing away from Lloyd's feats, but it does feel different.
I'm glad I finally got around to watching one of Lloyd's movies, and I'd like to see more of them. But I don't think I'll ever have the love for him that I do for Keaton.
This is the final picture in this year's Letterboxd Challenge, and I'm already looking forward to next year's. Among the movies that really came out of nowhere for me, so that I not only loved them, but I was surprised I loved them (let's face it, I hadn't heard of them) were The Lure and Furie. Let's revisit Furie one last time ... here we learn that you should never kidnap a child when Veronica Ngo is her mom: