Thursday, April 10, 2008


Do you know who Harold Lloyd is? He is the least known of the three silent-film-era comic geniuses.

There is Charlie Chaplin. There is Buster Keaton. And there is Harold Lloyd.

Chaplin and Keaton remain household names; brands even.

It is Harold Lloyd, though, who is the father of the romantic comedy. He pioneered the film image of the regular guy — a living, breathing person we recognize — who gets caught up in all kinds of wackiness as he tries to get the most basic things — the girl, friends, a decent job.

Harold Lloyd made roughly a gazillion films — shorts and feature length. Although routinely labeled a movie snob in this space — I had never actually seen a Harold Lloyd film until Wednesday night.

Oh, I had seen DVD cases in which Harold Lloyd's films were kept. The things are found in abundance around the home of Joe Furey and Alison Brown — two of the most generous and hospitable human beings on the planet, by the way.

Joe and Alison graciously board me at their wonderful residence anytime I am in Los Angeles — often at a moment's notice. They, in short, save my ass repeatedly and are great company besides. Alison is a recently minted Phd and a clinical psychologist. Joe is a writer/director/actor of much renown and one of only a handful of people who have made me injure myself through excessive laughter.

Joe's love of vintage comedy films is boundless and yet he'll never force it on you. Therefore, any time we watch movies together, its up to me. And I never pick Harold Lloyd — or anything silent. I didn't get it. I was convinced it wouldn't be all that funny.

I was wrong.

I was dead wrong.

I was as wrong as a Taco Bell/Sierra Nevada Pale Ale hangover fart in a crowded New Orleans greenhouse.

On April 2 Joe invited me to a screening of The Freshman at the AFI Institute up in the Hollywood Hills. The crowd was Joe and I and a flock of young filmmakers — plus Harold Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, who is in charge of all her grandfather's films and has made it her life's work to bring his films to the public.

The Freshman is hilarious. It is the direct ancestor of — and way funnier than — Adam Sandler's The Waterboy. It also had to be an enormous influence on the current George Clooney effort Leatherheads.

The next day, Joe and I watched Safety Last! — it has the one Harold Lloyd image I was already familiar with:

And Safety Last! was as funny as The Freshman.

Maybe alot of you are already hip to Harold Lloyd but I'm going to assume that you are as pig-headed as I have been.

In The Freshman and Safety Last1, Harold Lloyd brings something recognizable to the screen. His comedy — often rigorously physical — always has the bite of reality. And subtlety. Lloyd was no ham. He was just funny, inventive and a great actor.

Take a break from Fool's Gold, Run, Fatboy, Run, and Drillbit Taylor and enjoy the genuine article.

Harold Lloyd — the funniest man ever to wear glasses.