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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hrair Messserlian



 "Art is extremely intelligent and passionate in the work he champions and the individuals he mentors and represents."


Art was the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) elected National Board Member from Nevada and the elected Nevada Branch Council Member during my tenure there as the Nevada Branch's Executive Director and previously while I was a director in SAG's benefits organization (SAG-PPHP).

Art is extremely intelligent and passionate in the work he champions and the individuals he mentors and represents.  As an elected official both on the national stage and locally, Art has demonstrated his communication skills during organizational and public presentations, discussions and debates. 

Art has been able to interact effectively with a broad cross section of individuals with varying backgrounds in age and gender, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds, skills and professional levels, socioeconomic classes, political leanings and disabilities.

We have testified together before the Nevada State Senate to persuade the legislature to enact production incentives to bring more quality work to the Nevada arts community.

Please let me know if I can provide any additional information.

Sincerely
Hrair Messerlian





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Massive Film and TV Tax Incentive goes to California House then Governor

State Assembly Passes New California Film & TV Tax Credit Bill On 62-0 Vote

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california-tax-credits3__120901092343__120929195413__131031165021__131112185634__140109040050__140219155328__140424175515__140501004243__140513170807It’s not yet the law of the state, but efforts to expand California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program  took a legislative leap forward today. In the midst of a bill-passing frenzy, the state Assembly voted overwhelmingly for legislation that hopes to halt production flooding out of the home of Hollywood. Introduced in late February, the multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act drew 62 yes votes from Assembly members with zero opposed.
Related: Where Hollywood’s Union Jobs Are Going: Call These States The Runaway 3
“As lawmaker who cares about a healthy middle class, do we do something or Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 1.34.27 PM copydo nothing?” co-author Assembly Mike Gatto asked his colleagues about the decline in production jobs in the state as he presented the bill on the Legislature floor. He called the bill “larger, smarter and more sensible” than the current one. “Those jobs are not coming back unless we take off the gloves and fight for this industry,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said of the losses California has suffered in the past decade. The Republican governor hopeful had a bill expanding the current program himself before the Assembly earlier in the year. After a series of supporting speeches, Gatto along with his co-author, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), urged the rest of the Assembly to vote for their bill. Bocanegra noted that a dollar figure was not yet included with the Act because “we’ve been working for months to get the policy right first.”
Related: California Gov. Jerry Brown Still Mum On Film & TV Tax Credit Support

While that dollar figure is not expected to be added to the Act until the state budget is set in late June, industry sources have been saying for months that they hope to see the program increased to between $300 million and $400 million – which would put California close to New York’s $420 million incentives, the highest in the nation. In fact, some insiders have told me that they would consider rejecting the expansion if it were anything less that $300 million, which is what they believe the state needs to be truly competitive after years of the production battle to other territories.
Related: California Mayors Back Expansion Of State’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program
imgresWith an aim to keep the program going to at least 2022, the legislation proposes, among other measures, allowing movies with budgets over $75 million and network pilots to now be eligible for tax incentives in the Golden State. In an attempt to make bring Northern California politicians onboard with the new bill, it also includes proposes an additional 5% credit to productions that shoot outside Southern California. Currently the program is extend every two years since first being introduced back in 2009 to counter lucrative incentives from states like New York, Georgia and Louisiana as well as Canadian provinces and countries like the UK. The new legislation is a major shift from the current program, which doesn’t allow tent pole projects for instance to partake of state tax credits. Presently, successful projects are determined by lottery, as they will be again on June 2 the next deadline for applications for the tax credit. That doesn’t look to change under the new legislation.
Related: New Film & TV Tax Credit Bill Unanimously Passes First Hurdle
Known as AB 1839, the new bill was co-authored by Bocanergra and Gatto and had the bipartisan support of over 70 co-sponsors. After hearings earlier this year and support from studios, unions, local film commissions and more, the bill was unanimously passed by the Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, And Internet Media committee on March 25 and the Revenue and Taxation Committee, which Bocanegra chairs, on May 13. The Appropriations Committee, which Gatto chairs, passed the bill, on May 23. Gatto presented the bill on the Assembly floor today.
Related:
Analyst Throws Cold Water On California Film & TV Tax Credit Expansion
Official Dodges Governor’s Stance On Film & TV Tax Credit
Today’s vote now moves on to the state Senate where it will face a new round of hearings before a vote in that legislature later this summer. If the effort to expand California’s Film and TV tax incentives passes the Senate before August 31, the deadline for all legislation this session.The final bill will come back to the Assembly later in the summer and then it will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for him to sign. While Brown signed the last extension of the program back in 2012, the running for reelection Governor has not indicated either way if he supports an increase in the tax credit.

Television Critics Award Nominations

‘Good Wife,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘True Detective’ Lead TCA Award Nominees

'The Good Wife' Caps Very Good
“The Good Wife,” “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective” are among the series landing multiple nominations in this year’s Television Critics Assn. Awards derby.

Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” joins that trio in the org’s program of the year category, which didn’t leave room for any half-hour comedies. “Breaking Bad” won the category last year.
CBS’ “Good Wife” (pictured), HBO’s “Thrones” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” also are nommed in the drama series category, along with FX’s “The Americans” and Netflix’s “House of Cards.” “Thrones” won last year. “True Detective” landed a slot in the movies/miniseries category rather than in drama series, along with FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven,” BBC America’s “Broadchurch,” FX’s “Fargo” and SundanceTV’s “The Returned,” the subtitled French series.

The contenders for comedy series are CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which won last year in a tie with “Parks and Recreation,” Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Mindy Project,” FX’s “Louie” and HBO’s “Veep.”

“Brooklyn” also landed a nom for new program, along with FX’s “Fargo,” “Orange Is the New Black,” Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” and “True Detective.”

“The Americans” Matthew Rhys received a second straight nomination for individual achievement in drama. He’s in a tough co-ed heat with Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” Julianna Margulies of “Good Wife,” Tatiana Maslany of BBC America’s “Orphan Black” (last year’s champ) and “True Detective’s” Matthew McConaughey. Noticeably absent was Jeff Daniels of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” who won the lead drama actor Emmy last year, and Claire Danes of Showtime’s “Homeland,” who took the Emmy for lead drama actress.

The comedy achievement list is comprised of usual suspects: last year’s winner Louis C.K. for “Louie,” Mindy Kaling for “Mindy Project,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep,” Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory” and Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation.” Parsons and Louis-Dreyfus are the reigning Emmy comedy actor winners.

Among networks, CBS leads with nine total noms, followed by HBO (eight), FX (seven) and Fox (six).

TCA’s career achievement award contenders are a typically eclectic lot, with the surprise inclusion of Jay Leno, who was mostly hammered by critics during his long run on “The Tonight Show.” Leno’s competition ranges from producer Mark Burnett to director James Burrows to actress Valerie Harper to the TV icon that is William Shatner. Burnett also has two noms in the reality series category, for NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

The Heritage Award nominees for programs that have had a lasting impact on the smallscreen are ABC’s “Lost” and “Twin Peaks,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and the original “Star Trek” and Comedy Central’s “South Park.”

Here is a complete list of TCA Award nominees:

Individual Achievement in Comedy
Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX) [2013 winner in category]
Mindy Kaling, “The Mindy Project” (Fox)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)

Individual Achievement in Drama
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” (BBC America) [2013 winner in category]
Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective” (HBO)
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans” (FX)

Outstanding Achievement in News and Information
“CBS Sunday Morning” (CBS)
“Cosmos” (Fox)
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
“Frontline” (PBS)
“60 Minutes” (CBS)

Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming
“The Amazing Race” (CBS)
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (Logo)
“Shark Tank” (ABC) [2013 winner in category]
“Survivor” (CBS)
“The Voice” (NBC)

Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming
“Adventure Time” (Cartoon Network)
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (PBS)
“The Fosters” (ABC Family)
“Sesame Street” (PBS)
“Switched at Birth” (ABC Family)

Outstanding New Program
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)
“Fargo” (FX)
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
“Sleepy Hollow” (Fox)
“True Detective” (HBO)

Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials
“American Horror Story: Coven” (FX)
“Broadchurch” (BBC America)
“Fargo” (FX)
“The Returned” (SundanceTV)
“True Detective” (HBO)

Outstanding Achievement in Drama
“The Americans” (FX)
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO) [2013 winner in category]
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)

Outstanding Achievement in Comedy
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) [2013 winner in category – tied with “Parks and Recreation”]
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)
“Louie” (FX)
“The Mindy Project” (Fox)
“Veep” (HBO)

Career Achievement Award
Mark Burnett
James Burrows
Valerie Harper
Jay Leno
William Shatner

Heritage Award
“Lost” (ABC)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
“South Park” (Comedy Central)
“Star Trek” (NBC)
“Twin Peaks” (ABC)

Program of the Year
“Breaking Bad” (AMC) [2013 winner in category]
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
“True Detective” (HBO)


The 'High Sign' (1921) - BUSTER KEATON





A short comedy starring Buster Keaton, who also co-wrote and co-directed with Edward F. Cline. Although One Week was the first of Keaton's independent shorts to be released, The High Sign was the 1st one to be produced. The title refers to the secret signal used by the underworld gang in the film.

Buster plays a drifter who cons his way into working at an amusement park shooting gallery. Believing Buster is an expert marksman, both the murderous gang the Blinking Buzzards and the man they want to kill end up hiring him

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0012278

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More classic silent films added daily to the channel. We hope you enjoy these movies and cartoons, some of which contain new musical scores, from early cinema.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

George Lucas


Today would be Vincent Price's birthday...


Watch this video on Special Effects from the start of film to Godzilla.



A homage to the great moments that changed visual effects:
Took a little while to put together but I think its conveys the evolution of visual effects quite well. I tired to the best of my ability to order these clips chronologically (except for of course the first 3)
I will put together a full list if enough people want it.
On a separate note, if anyone is looking for an editor who can work quickly and effectively please send me an email here : thepadtech@gmail.com
(I'm currently looking for any work I can get)

Thanks for your Support!

https://twitter.com/Thepadtech

A very different Wizard of Oz from Turkey

Hey, remember in The Wizard of Oz when those dancing cavemen were mercilessly slaughtered by the Lollipop Guild's magical cannon? No? Well, you must have watched that lame American version, then.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Herb Jeffries, Hollywood's first black singing cowboy, dies at 100

Herb Jeffries, a crooner who became the first black singing cowboy in the movies, has died at 100
Cowboy crooner Herb Jeffries, who has died at age 100, sang with Duke Ellington and ran jazz clubs in France
Herb Jeffries was the African American Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers
Herb Jeffries, who sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra during the Swing Era and made movie history in the 1930s as "The Bronze Buckaroo," the silver screen's first black singing cowboy, has died. He was 100.
Jeffries died of heart failure Sunday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, said Raymond Strait, who had been working with Jeffries on his autobiography. Jeffries had been in declining health for some time.
Known for his rich baritone and sensitive phrasing, Jeffries was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the early 1940s when he scored his biggest hit with "Flamingo," which sold in the millions and became his signature tune.
"Jeffries' version of 'Flamingo' with Duke Ellington was, and is, a jazz classic," music critic Don Heckman told The Times in 2010. "Jeffries' rich-toned ballad style resonated in the work of such male jazz singers as Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams and even Sammy Davis Jr. for decades after the chart-breaking success of his 'Flamingo.'"
As the African American answer to Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other white singing cowboys, Jeffries made a handful of low-budget westerns in the '30s.
They had titles such as "Harlem Rides the Range" and "The Bronze Buckaroo" and featured the tall, handsome, wavy-haired singer with a Gable-esque mustache as a dashing, white-hatted good guy in a black western outfit and riding a white horse named Stardusk.
The idea to make movie westerns with all-black casts was Jeffries'.
"Little children of dark skin — not just Negroes, but Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, everybody of color — had no heroes in the movies," he told The Times in 1998. "I was so glad to give them something to identify with."
He was born Umberto Valentino in Detroit on Sept. 24, 1913.

"My mother was Irish, my father was Sicilian, and one of my great-grandparents was Ethiopian," Jeffries, who took his stepfather's last name, told the Oklahoman in 2004. "So I'm an Italian-looking mongrel with a percentage of Ethiopian blood, which enabled me to get work with black orchestras."

He began singing locally as a teenager before heading to Chicago, where he started touring as a singer with Earl "Fatha" Hines. In the deep South, he was struck by the number of black movie audiences viewing white cowboy pictures.

Realizing the size of the potential market, he talked Jed Buell, a white, independent B-movie producer in Hollywood, into helping out.

But finding an African American who could ride, sing, and act was difficult — until the tall, broad-shouldered Jeffries, who learned to ride on his grandfather's dairy farm in Michigan, nominated himself.
"No way. They'll never buy you; you're not black enough," the light-skinned Jeffries remembered Buell saying. Jeffries said Buell finally agreed to let him play the part but insisted that Jeffries wear makeup to darken his skin.

"Harlem on the Prairie," billed as "the first all-Negro musical western," was released in 1937. Among the all-black cast members were Spencer Williams, who later portrayed Andy on "Amos 'n' Andy" on television, and comedian Mantan Moreland, who provided comic relief.

Jeffries earned $5,000 for the film, which was shot at a dude ranch near Victorville in five days.

Each of the films that followed were produced just as fast. In later years, Jeffries would jokingly refer to them as "C-movies." But he took great pride in them.
"To say I was the first black singing cowboy on the face of this earth is a great satisfaction," he told American Visions in 1997.

In an era when black actors typically played subservient roles on screen, Jeffries stood out.
"Herb was a sex symbol," New York University film professor Donald Bogle, author of "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks," a history of black films, told The Times in 2003. "With his wavy hair and Clark Gable mustache, he might have been a different kind of star had America been a different kind of place."

Three more musical westerns starring Jeffries were released over the next two years, "Two-Gun Man from Harlem," "The Bronze Buckaroo" and "Harlem Rides the Range."

Jeffries cashed in on his fame by making stage appearances with the Four Tones, his movie backup singers.

Touring in a Cadillac with steer horns on the front and his name in gold rope on the side, he'd do rope tricks, spin his six-shooters and sing.

While promoting his final film in Detroit in 1939, Jeffries showed up at a performance by the Duke Ellington Orchestra and was invited to sing. Ellington later asked Jeffries to join his orchestra on tour.

Jeffries, who began singing with what has been described as a luscious tenor, followed the advice of Ellington's composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn and lowered his range to what music critic Jonny Whiteside later called a "silken, lusty baritone."

In addition to recording with Ellington, Jeffries appeared in Ellington's legendary all-black musical revue "Jump for Joy" in 1941. The show, featuring a 60-member cast that also included Ivie Anderson, Joe Turner and newcomer Dorothy Dandridge, ran for 12 weeks at the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Drafted into the Army during World War II, Jeffries sang in a Special Services company entertaining troops. After the war, he had a number of hit records, including "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" and "Basin Street Blues."

By the early '50s, he had moved to France and opened a popular jazz club in Paris called the Flamingo and another club in southern France. He continued to perform both in Europe and the United States and played the title role in the 1957 film "Calypso Joe," costarring Angie Dickinson.

He returned to the U.S. in the 1960s, settling in the Los Angeles area, and made guest appearances on a number of television series over the next two decades.

In 1992, a tribute to the singing cowboys at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum — along with the discovery of copies of several of Jeffries' long-lost cowboy pictures in a cellar in Texas — triggered a resurgence of interest in his movie career.

In addition to being rediscovered by the mainstream media for his role in breaking Hollywood race barriers on screen in the '30s, Jeffries was featured in a segment of Turner Broadcasting's "The Untold West" and scenes from his westerns appeared in Mario Van Peebles' 1993 movie "Posse."

The renewed interest led him to Nashville, where he recorded "The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again)" for the Warner Western label in 1995.

Jeffries, whose marriages included one to burlesque legend Tempest Storm, is survived by his fifth wife, Savannah; three daughters; and two sons.

McLellan is a former Times staff writer.

Normal Heart

"Normal Heart" finally made it to HBO Tonight. I have the honor to have been in the first college production in the country, at UNLV in the mid 1980's, while the crisis was at its height since no one knew what was happening and President Reagan choose to ignore it because it was a "gay" disease. The film, by nature, is very different than the play, with far more graphic images and in many ways far more emotion. i remember inviting my agent to A Normal Heart when I was in it. Her husband walked out and she was very uncomfortable, but she stayed and did say the play was worthwhile and important. The production was a Royal Shakespeare Company-UNLV joint production under the director of Royal Shakespeare actor Roderick horn. I still can't believe I made the class and was in it. This past year Poor Richard's Theaster in Las Vegas staged the show for a new generation. Very uncomfortable watching the graphic images in the movie...I hope it does not turn too many people off. The message is still vital.

-Art Lynch

Huston and Chaplin on Film Making



  • If you make movies about movies and about characters instead of people, the echoes get thinner and thinner until they're reduced to mechanical sounds.
  •       - John Huston




  • Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
  •       - Charlie Chaplin

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lost Stooges Footage


Just for the 'Stooge' fans. Its in color!!

pjmedia.com‎[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbN9nwrAbFs%5B%2Fyoutube%5D

The film was shot by George Mann in 1938, at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

Charlie Chaplin


Safety Last!: High-Flying Harold

By Ed Park



“As a piece of comic architec­ture, it’s impeccable,” Orson Welles said of Safety Last! (1923), Harold Lloyd’s best-known work and supreme achievement. He might as well have meant the film’s central structure itself: the fictional Bolton Building, home to the DeVore Department Store and sundry offices for everything from real estate to sport­ing goods. Over the course of seventy-three minutes, it becomes one of cinema’s great fun houses, every floor teeming with silli­ness and danger. The first half of the film takes us inside, to a frenetic vision of work­place hell. Lloyd plays a striver from the sticks, slaving behind the fabric counter at the aptly named DeVore, fend­ing off zealous biddies as he tries to get a leg up. For much of the second half, he clings to the outside, climbing up the treacherous facade, encountering a zany array of obstacles—from the believable (a flock of pigeons) to the absurd (a badminton net).
Warding off a fatal date with gravity, he reaches heights of terror and glory beyond his small-town imaginings. Gawkers cheer or jeer as they lean out their windows. “Young man,” scolds a crone who materializes about halfway through his climb, “don’t you know you might fall and get hurt?” Looming above it all is moviedom’s defining time­piece: the giant clock mounted high above the city, whose hands Lloyd clutches, and whose face he destroys.
Ninety years later, the structure of Safety Last!, Lloyd’s fourth full-length feature, is instantly recognizable to the modern viewer. It’s still the template for the contemporary action flick, in which the story sets up a spectacular chase or fight sequence at the end. (Indeed, the plot ofSafety Last! was built to accommodate the brick-by-brick ascent of a human fly, a craze of the twenties.) But there are ironies and ambiguities packed into the film, produced by Lloyd’s longtime collaborator Hal Roach and costarring Mildred Davis (whom Lloyd married in February 1923). Safety Last! is a meditation on time and money, on fame and misfortune, that holds up a mirror to the life of its creator.
The opening credits dub Lloyd “the Boy,” though he was almost thirty when Safety Last! was made. Just as frequently, he’s referred to as “Harold,” and even “Harold Lloyd,” as when we glimpse the intimate information on the paystub he receives for his grueling, low-level job at DeVore (“Name: Harold Lloyd, 6 Days @ $15.00”). Due to a snafu, he also winds up being the so-called Mystery Man whom the newspapers say will scale the skyscraper. The tag sticks: why does Lloyd, once as big a silent-comedy draw as Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, remain unknown to most?
The scene in which Lloyd dangles from the hands of the big clock is an image for the ages, infiltrating the culture at its high and low points. (It has recently been quoted, verbatim, in Christian Marclay’s twenty-four-hour installation The Clock and, more loosely, in Sofia Vergara’s TV spot for CoverGirl Outlast Stay Fabulous foundation.) But the name, let alone the biography, of the pale man with the boater and horn-rimmed glasses has faded from collective memory. Some attribute this drop-off to the fact that Lloyd, who owned the rights to every film he starred in, was reluctant to rerelease his oeuvre theatrically or sell it to television (“You don’t control it, for one thing, and they take it into homes”). And clearly a great deal of the Lloyd magic was lost when he started making sound films, beginning with 1929’s Welcome Danger and resulting in eight titles that, though watchable and even interesting, lack the sheer comic authority of his best silent work.
During his silent-feature heyday (1922–28), Lloyd raked it in. As Jeffrey Vance and Suzanne Lloyd’s 2002 book Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian points out, the first of these features,Grandma’s Boy (1922), grossed ten times its $94,412 cost; Dr. Jack was one of the top ten films of that same year, grossing $1,275,423; and Safety Last! grossed over a million and a half dollars. President Harding watched it in the White House. (Verdict: “Loved it!”) Babe Ruth has a cameo in the last Lloyd silent, the marvelous Speedy (1928). Of course, popular taste is no indicator of what art will last. Welles, who knew Lloyd through a shared interest in magic, suspected this slip in stature was due to the disdain of the snooterati: “Harold Lloyd—he’s surely the most underrated [comedian] of them all. The intellectuals don’t like the Harold Lloyd character—that middle-class, middle-American, all-American college boy. There’s no obvious poetry to it.” Yet it’s just this everyman persona that gives Lloyd’s higher slapstick its oomph: his physical prowess was at odds with his wholesome appearance and relatability. Even while being berated as he’s about to lose his grip and fall to his death, Harold will smile and nod politely.
Born in 1893 in small-town Nebraska, Lloyd moved with his family around the state and in Colorado. In real life, he was “middle-American,” but “middle-class” might be a stretch. His ne’er-do-well father, Foxy, was always looking for work (Harold’s mother divorced Foxy in 1910). Lloyd’s life changed when Foxy got hit by a truck and received $3,000 in damages. They moved west, in part so Harold could attend the San Diego School of Expression, which had been started by an actor who had taken Harold under his wing in Omaha. In 1913, he and his father and brother moved to Los Angeles, where he infiltrated the Universal lot by applying makeup, so that the guard would assume he was an actor. He eventually won small acting parts; more significantly, he befriended Roach, another bit actor. Roach formed the Rolin Film Company in 1914, during a Universal strike, and cast Harold in his pictures. Though these were failures, by the following year, Roach was making films for Pathé Exchange, with Lloyd cast as Lonesome Luke, a knockoff of Chaplin’s Tramp. Rolin cranked out sixty-odd Lonesome Luke one- and two-reelers over the next two years. Titles like Luke Lugs Luggage, Lonesome Luke Leans to the Literary, and Lonesome Luke, Plumber attest to the versatility of the concept.
But Lloyd realized that Luke was an artistic dead end, and in 1917 he created the “Glasses Character,” so-called because of his trademark spectacles—which were, in fact, lensless. Lloyd’s articulation (in a 1964 issue of Films and Filming) of their undeniable appeal is opaque: “Someone with glasses is generally thought to be studious and an erudite person to a degree, a kind of person who doesn’t fight or engage in violence, but I did, so my glasses belied my appearance. The audience could put me in a situation with that in mind, but I could be just the opposite to what was supposed.” Talking to an American Film Institute audience in 1969, he said, “In the pictures that I did, I could be an introvert, a little weakling, and another could be an extrovert, the sophisticate, the hypochondriac. They looked alike in appearance, with the glasses, which I guess you’d call a typical American boy.” (One imagines a hinterland stocked with nearsighted striplings.) This may be what Welles meant when he said there was “no obvious poetry” to the Lloyd character. It could be that the poetry is darker than critics realized, an art of concealment: the simple pair of glasses is the uniform that renders his true nature invisible, volatile, subject to change.
In Safety Last!, this poetry finds expression in visual echoes and hectic repetition, the quick metamorphoses (as when Harold cowers from a supervisor by hopping like a frog), and the inside-outside structure. Inside, the Bolton Building is a site of exploitation and lies, where Harold’s personality is debased at the hands of commerce. Viewed from the outside, the building is a palm-sweat factory and metaphor machine—and the only shot at freedom the poor store clerk has. His innermost drives, ambition and lust, have forced him to become a man of action.
The film wrings dozens of gags from the chaos that is Harold’s workday behind the fabric counter—as when, attempting to hand off a parcel to a little old lady amid the throng, he shouts, “Who dropped that fifty-dollar bill?” and the mass of matrons subsides like the Red Sea getting the Moses treatment—but it’s in the final half hour, when Lloyd reluctantly assumes the role of the human fly, that Safety Last! delivers something close to pure pleasure. Watching the extended sequence is like listening to the seamless suite of miniatures on side two of Abbey Road: it’s a climax filled with climaxes. Enter at any point, and there’s no escape. You can as easily divert your gaze from whatever fresh hell Lloyd encounters on his unnervingly vertical journey—an out-flung window, a rodent up the pant leg—as you can click off the stereo when “Mean Mr. Mustard” circles to a close. Each thrill feeds into the next; each gag enhances the viewer’s joyful unease. The only sensible way to stop is to reach the end.
On the top floor of the Bolton Building is the studio of Julian Deriot, theatrical photographer (as the office door informs us). Inside, a man poses with a gun. When Harold reaches that window, hoping to get inside at last, he sees the firearm pointed at him, hears Julian’s flash go off, and scrambles back outside in fear. The presence of this somewhat specialized profession, intruding on Harold’s epic climb, verges on the daffy—until one realizes that it was in just such a studio that Harold Lloyd, star on the make, almost lost it all. On August 24, 1919, having found fame with the Glasses Character, Lloyd posed for publicity shots, holding a prop bomb. The fuse was lit—and it turned out not to be a prop after all. The explosion left him with serious burns, a damaged eye, and a permanently mangled right hand. After he recovered, he wore on set a special glove that covered the loss of his thumb and index finger, prosthetic digits whose motion could be made to look natural. The Glasses Character is stronger—much stronger—than the audience would ever know.
Roach once said, “Harold Lloyd worked for me because he could play a comedian. He was not a comedian. He was the best actor I ever saw being a comedian . . . No one worked harder than he did.” The actor Jobyna Ralston, recalling Lloyd’s gag perfectionism in A Sailor-Made Man,said that a simple scene of “nonchalantly” lighting a cigarette “required over five hours of filming! . . . It is the same in all Lloyd comedies. If genius really is an infinite capacity for taking pains, then Harold Lloyd amply rates the title of genius.” A note of condescension rings in these testimonials—as though they are saying that a strong work ethic is no substitute for natural talent. But that’s a naive view of the truth of art-making. Surely it’s worth all the rigor in the world—painstaking camera placement, physically grueling takes, Kubrick-caliber devil-in-the-detailism—to sear into the brains of present and future viewers something as dream-elegant and distressing as a man hanging from a clock at 2:45 in the afternoon.
It should be no surprise, then, that Lloyd’s masterpiece should actually be about the work ethic. In Safety Last!, Harold Lloyd is “Harold Lloyd”: a rural transplant seeking his fortune in the metropolis, all pluck and punctilio. The goal is to earn enough to bring to the city and marry his hometown honey. He mails a pendant to her, sans chain, writing, “I hope to send for you just as soon as I can clear four or five business deals.” It’s a lie, of course: he spends five and a half days a week on the front lines of customer service, routinely being berated by the haughty floor­walker, Stubbs, whose name symbolizes what he does to Harold’s dreams.
Whether the dreams are worth having is the central question. In plot terms, the happy resolution is what one would expect, but Safety Last! is as much a critique as it is a celebration of money. The first scene shows Harold behind bars, about to take “the long, long journey”—a noose is in view. An official and a cleric draw near him; his mother and his sweetheart weep as he’s being led to what we assume is his execution. The setting turns out to be a train station, as the Boy sets off to seek his fortune. It’s a visual hit-and-run so swift that its weirdness doesn’t sink in till later. Did train stations really have gates that looked like prison bars? Were nooselike loops really used to hold slips of paper to be snatched by the conductor? (And hey—why’s that priest in the frame?) In this modern world, wherein bright young things flock to where the jobs are, to earn one’s living is to enter a kind of death.
“The Boy was always early,” a title card announces. Time is of the essence. Accidentally trapped in a towel truck that takes him farther and farther from his infernal place of employment, Harold tries to make it back to work on time, faking an injury to get a free ambulance ride, dressing up as a mannequin to be carried in under the arm of a coworker. He is thus able to turn back the clock to avert punishment. But these are false deaths, fake injuries, acted immobilities. For Harold to succeed, it seems, he needs to tempt mortality in earnest.
Real life intrudes here too. Bill Strother, who plays “the Pal,” wasn’t an actor but an actual human fly, whom Lloyd chanced to see climbing the Brockman Building in Los Angeles. By Lloyd’s account, he repeatedly watched and turned away from the spectacle; in the end, he greeted Strother on the roof of the building to sign him up for a film (just as “the Girl” meets “Harold” on the roof, to live happily ever after). But of course it’s Lloyd, not Strother, who plays the social and literal climber in the climax, and Safety Last! unfolds as a parable for the popular conception of Lloyd the actor: through hard work and “an infinite capacity for taking pains,” he became one of the most successful film artists of his era. (Lloyd, who died in 1971, enjoyed a long retirement from moviemaking, living at Greenacres, his vast Beverly Hills estate, which had twenty-six bathrooms; it is now the home of mogul Ron Burkle.)
Before Harold can plant his shoes firmly on the roof of the Bolton Building, he bumps his head on an anemometer and does a dazed dance along the ledge—a hilarious, perspiration-provoking meander. Right before he falls, his foot slips into a conveniently located length of rope, and in an instant his body swings swiftly through the air, a human pendulum anchored by a bannerless flagpole. Placed inside a topper of a gag, the “typical American boy” turns into a parody of the Stars and Stripes—a flag, perhaps, commemorating all those who never succeeded in climbing their way to the top.
Ed Park is the author of the novel Personal Days (2008) and the literary editor at Amazon Publishing. His writing on film has appeared in Cinema Scope, The Believer, Moving Image Source, the Village Voice, and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.

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