Readings on Cinema: Safety Last

Introduced by Merrill Schleier, author, Skyscraper Cinema: Architecture and Gender in American Film

Safety Last contains the classic Harold Lloyd image, the comedian hanging precariously from the arms of a clock ten stories off the ground. Shot without trick photography (though there was a safety platform out of camera range), the sequence established Lloyd as the comedian who would go to any lengths-or heights-to get a laugh. In addition to being Lloyd's quintessential “thrill picture” (as he called them), Safety Last was also a vehicle for Lloyd's continuing study of ambition in America. As The Young Man Out to Make His Name in the World, Harold lands a job as a department store clerk. He sends to The Girl Back Home glowing letters and “lavish” gifts, leading her to think him suddenly wealthy and in need of financial advice. Upon her unexpected arrival, Harold enters into an elaborate ruse to impress the girl.

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