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Dr. Rich Edwards

Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 3: Lloyd's Painfully Funny Prop

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The Lloyd film definitely shows a progression in the gag. The Arbuckle gag is pretty funny, but I find the payoff a little lacking. By bringing in extra gags based on the environment, Lloyd is able to build his level of humor.

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I think that Fatty Arbuckle is one of those comics lost to history because others will surpass him in their innovative ways.  That is why this is a great segment to watch for me.  We see Fatty doing his bit, we see the early makings of Keaton, but then the artistry of Lloyd.  Everyone who has every watched an old movie set at a carnival or gone to one is familiar with these games, but Lloyd does take it the next step because he allows us to continue along with him.  Anyone would be confused and unsure of what was going on after the hit he took - but rather than doing the normal "scratch my head, I feel ill" -he goes to the mirrors and works with the concept of "oh my what has happened" - which takes Fatty's idea in a new direction for a new audience.

Unfortunately for Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the scandal that ended his career prevented him from being considered as great a contributor to silent comedy as he could have been. He later went on to direct films under a different name, but his comic acting career was all but over after the 3 trials he faced over the death of Virginia Rappe. He was acquitted, but his career was ended.

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I'm more familiar with Chaplin and Keaton, so it was really nice to see an episode focusing on Lloyd. I recently read a book called "The Silent Clowns" that examined the styles of the major silent comedians, and if I remember correctly, it took Lloyd much, much longer than Chaplin or Keaton to develop his particular on-screen personality he is known for today: middle class, elegant, charming, with those fantastic glasses. Luckily for us, he finally found his style and gave us some wonderful films. Safely Last! is superb. I thought he did a great job building off of Arbuckle and Keaton's "high-striker" gag and making it a bit more clever.

 

I've seen people describe Lloyd as the second "greatest" silent comedian, second only to Chaplin. If this is the case, I would think he would be more well known. As it is, I don't know anyone who even knows Lloyd is. I got my undergraduate degree in film studies a couple of years ago, and he was never even mentioned. Has he become less popular recently? The world needs to know of his talent!

I think Lloyd is underrated. He has some truly great films and is very clever in the way he develops his gags. Perhaps one reason he is less appreciated now is because he was the most "normal" of the so-called Big 3 was was the most "of his time." When you see a Harold Lloyd film, it truly represents the Jazz Era and the 1920s while the humor of Chaplin and Keaton was either considered timeless or ahead of its time.

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I'm glad to discover Harold Lloyd. He was a Master of comedy, he was as great as Chaplin and Keaton. He was a gentleman, his style was very elegant, good manners. Compared to Chaplin, he was less violent and mischievous. Number, Please? is a great selection for this course.

Always enjoyed Harold Lloyd. He doesn't get as much respect these days as Chaplin or Keaton, but he is just so darned clever and funny.

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I'm not sure if others know about this "different side" to Lloyd's artistic activities. I found this book a few years AGO AND REALLY ENJOYED IOT. tHERE ARE PLEMTY OF "USED" COPIES ON aMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Harold-Lloyds-Hollywood-Nudes-3-D/dp/1579126790/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473349921&sr=1-1&keywords=Harold+Lloyd+Nudes

Wow... I had no idea Lloyd was an accomplished photographer after his screen popularity ended. Thanks!

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Lloyd's humor is just as significant as Chaplin's and Keaton's in the silents and the visual gags.  Although, I think his voice became another element for his character, "The Boy", and did not detract from it, when he transferred into the 'talkies'.  Chaplin did not give a "speaking" voice to his "Tramp" but instead, only uttered symbolic "sounds" (i.e. "Modern Times").  While Keaton's talking characters seemed very different (i.e. not as "stony-faced" and less memorable) from his silent one.

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Wow.  Just WOW!  Harold Lloyd.... yet another genius in this genre of film that I clearly have not had enough experience with.  Honestly, I've watched TCM for a VERY long time, yet I have somehow managed to avoid silent films.  I had NO idea the treasures that lie there.  Not only do I have a stack of Chaplin and Keaton movies to watch, I feel like Harold Lloyd is my spirit animal, and I want to just sit down and watch a stack of his films!!  His slapstick comedic performances are something altogether different than what I even imagined was going on in these silent films.  Talk about ahead of his time!  He took a gag (admittedly very funny in its own right) and transformed it into something even beyond the classic "hit on the head at the high-striker game".  Love it!  

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High Striker Game - Breakdown of a Gag Episode 3:  From 1917 to 1920, the budget for filmmaking was getting bigger.  I think it shows in the films in that Harold Lloyd's High Striker scene uses more actors, including a lady watching from the ticket stand or wicket.  The guys helping to conked Lloyd up add to the common, likeable man that he played.  I also noticed that Fatty Arbuckle enters the scene with his lady friend who picks up his hat after the conk.  He also knows how to handle a cigar.  So this is a man that already having a successful day despite the gag.  But with Harold Lloyd, from the beginning of the scene, I find him endearing, especially since he is running after a cute dog and gets conked on the head in his effort to catch the pooch.  Then the group of men straight away, go to his aid.  There is so much more fullness in the scene already.  I wondered what Lloyd's payoff was in the scene... The payoff is almost for the audience in that Lloyd was able to add the second amusement park attraction, and so make him even more endearing as he inspects his distorted image.  Plus there is the audience interaction where they know what's going on, but he doesn't.  We want to tell him.

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I must confess that Horld Lloyd was not under my radar of great comedians from early american cinema, but this two clips show us that his narrative ability was as mature as Chaplin's or even Keaton's ones. An artist who knew how to prolong a funny sequence by making a whole situation out of it. The first clip is a quick gag, which starts and ends in a matter of seconds. Lloyd's development is deeper and makes us watch a serious os consequences from the first situation. Really good!

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I could be wrong here, but I believe Lloyd owned copyrights on most or all of his work and purposely limited their release. He was certainly highly rated at the time, but subsequent generations did not stumble across him like they did with Chaplin and Keaton (or later, The Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, etc.). I know I didn't, and growing up in New York City just about every slapstick comic and comedy duo/group were unavoidable if you watched WPIX, WOR and WNEW.

 

Perhaps a career legacy mistake? The Dave Clark Five were one of the biggest bands of the 1960s but Dave Clark held off re-releasing their catalogue on CD for two decades, figuring the price would just go up and up. Instead, most of the last two generations have grown up not knowing his name.

 

 

 

I think Lloyd is underrated. He has some truly great films and is very clever in the way he develops his gags. Perhaps one reason he is less appreciated now is because he was the most "normal" of the so-called Big 3 was was the most "of his time."

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Lloyd is the performer I was least familiar with. He does such a fantastic job of playing the comedic foil, at the mercy of the world around him. I love his take on the carnival and his take on the mallet hitting game. His comedic bits with the mirrors was delightful and silly! 

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It is interesting to see the differences in the "high striker game" gags in these two clips.  In "Coney Island" (1917), Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Buster Keaton perform the gag in its simpler incarnation.  It involves Buster striking Fatty accidentally and laughing, followed by Fatty striking buster in revenge and winning a cigar.  It is a simple gag, well executed.  In 1920, Harold Lloyd reused the initial premise of the accidental strike, but expanded the breadth and depth of the gag by eliminating the revenge element and replacing it with a period of post-impact confusion.  In this confusion, he stumbles into the area with the "funhouse mirrors," and his confusion is compounded by the distorted images in the mirrors.  This expanded gag extends the humor of the original and eliminates the need for a partner.  Lloyd got more laughs out of this gag by himself, than Arbuckle & Keaton got together.

 

As an aside, Lloyd's fascination with 3-D photography was covered nicely in a book that was edited by his daughter (it included the 3-D glasses for viewing):  

 

Lloyd Hayes, Suzanne, ed. 3-D Hollywood:  Photographs by Harold Lloyd.

                                           New York: Simon & Schuster. 1992.

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