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How Harold Lloyd filmed SAFETY LAST - same alley as Keaton's COPS


SilentEchoes
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John,

 

Thanks so much for posting this here! I absolutely loved your presentation at this year's film festival. Your then and now slides are terrific!

 

I do hope you will continue here!

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Yes, thank you for posting this.

 

The Harold Lloyd building scenes were some of the best special effects ever filmed.

 

Years ago I studied them and still photos of them, and I concluded that the close-ups of the clock scene and the tops of the buildings he was on were props (fake false-fronts) constructed on top of a building across the street from where the props seemed to be located.

 

If we say the real background buildings on the right side of the screen are on the South side of the street, and the background buildings on the left are on the North side of the street, then the false-front prop building face that Harold is climbing up is on the top of a real building that is located on the SOUTH side of the street, while the false prop building segments are actually FACING SOUTH, rather than North.

 

Note that all buildings that are on the SOUTH side of the street should be facing NORTH. But the close-up of the one he is climbing on is NOT facing North. This means it is constructed on top of a building that is on the South side of the street, which IS facing North, while the prop building is facing South.

 

The brilliant photography and clever camera angles make it seem as if Harold is on the South-facing front of a building that is on the North side of the street. But he is not.

 

If you watch FEET FIRST (1930), you will see Harold climbing at what seems to be the top side of a tall building, but look carefully to the right side of a screen and you will see the hand of a director waving up or down, signaling when the scaffolding should the lifted or lowered. This hand is usually not noticed since everyone is watching Harold. So, seeing the hand waving makes us realize that the man with the hand and Harold are only about 15 or so feet above the top of the building on which the prop set was constructed.

 

 

 

tumblr_m85s0oUy4Q1qbhnrvo1_500.jpg

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Harold is on a prop building wall that is facing South and is constructed

on top of a downtown building that is facing North. The real building

is facing North, while the prop building face is facing South. BOTH are

on the SOUTH side of the street.

 

The illusion makes it seem as if the prop building he is on is on the

North side of the street facing South, but it is not. It is on top of a real building that faces North, but Harold's prop building is facing South. The prop building and the real building

under him are on the SOUTH side of the street.

 

 

 

67%2Bb%2BHarold%2BLloyd%252C1930%252CFee

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Interesting theory here and most likely true, Fred, however being a native Angeleno, I know that while most of the greater L.A. area does indeed run in a North/South/East/West grid pattern, the oldest part of the city, the downtown L.A. area(and where Mr. Lloyd filmed these sequences), actually runs at a diagonal from the rest of the area's grid. And so, as I figure it, none of those highrise buildings face either North or South, but instead either face Northwest/Northeast/Southwest/Southeast.

 

(...not to be a stickler here, mind you) ;)

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Dargo, look at the shadows of the buildings as seen in the street below, in the last photo I posted.

 

The buildings on the right of the screen are casting those shadows. The sun is to the South of those buildings. The shadows aim northward.

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I think I understand what you are saying Fred, but I want to clarify something. Is he actually on top of these buildings? I just assumed he was in front of some huge photograph in a studio and that maybe he was on lift that was making it look like he was high up. He was actually on top of the building across the street from the one in the picture?

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The "building" he is climbing up and down is only a false-front, a prop. It is modeled after a real building, but the prop is only maybe 20 or 30 feet tall.

 

This false front prop is mounted on the roof of a tall real building, which places him and his prop building hundreds of feet up in the air, but if he fell, all he would do is fall down maybe 20 feet to the rooftop of the building that his prop is on top of.

 

In the photo, the real building he is on top of faces left, while the prop building false-front faces right, which makes it seem like it is across the street next to all the other buildings that face to the right.

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>Thank you for all this info. It is so interesting to see how these films were made. And I love Harold Lloyd - such a talented man.

 

Here is a tall building in downtown Los Angeles with a false-front portion of a fake building constructed on top of it. The false-front looks like a billboard in this rear view of it. The tower on top of the tall building is the multi-level camera platform. The false-front fake building faces right, while the tall real building faces left. When photographed, the false front portion of the fake building seems to be a real building located across the street.

 

344bby0.jpg

 

Here is a small photo of the front view of the fake building Harold will climb. This is constructed on top of a tall building in downtown Los Angeles.

 

20hkn40.jpg

 

Here is a larger view of the same photo. Note the mattresses stored under the lower right corner of the false-front. Presumably for Harold to fall on in case he falls off the side of the fake building. But he can fall only as far as the rooftop of the tall building the set is built on top of:

http://silentlocations.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/feet-first-reveal.jpg

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