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Enjoy Harold Lloyd Silent Classic With Live Music Monday Night In Balboa Park

Safety Last’ screens at Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Photo caption: Harold Lloyd became known as the "king of daredevil comedy" for performing st...

Photo credit: Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.

Harold Lloyd became known as the "king of daredevil comedy" for performing stunts like this clock tower one in "Safety Last."

Companion viewing

"The Freshman" (1925)

"Steamboat Bill, Jr." (1928)

"Project A" (1983)

Balboa Park and the Spreckels Organ Society host silent movie night this evening with a screening of Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last."

Monday night at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park you have the rare treat of seeing a silent film as it was meant to be seen — with live music. Organist Steven Ball takes the stage for a screening of the 1923 comedy classic "Safety Last."

The film features a young man who climbs a skyscraper to win his girl. Lloyd performed the famous comic stunt of hanging off a clock tower seemingly high above the street. To fully appreciate this stunt you need to know that four years earlier Lloyd had lost his thumb and index finger in an accident that occurred during a publicity photo shoot. Lloyd was supposed to be photographed lighting a cigarette with the sputtering fuse of a fake bomb. But the prop bomb proved to have a real charge that exploded and seriously injured the star.

You also need to remember that there were no computer generated effects back then. Here's a video that explains some of the ingenious silent movie special effects that were used by people like Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

How Silent Movie Special Effects Were Done

Strategic camera angles and forced perspectives were used to create the illusion that Lloyd was hanging off a clock tower some dozen stories up. The reality was that Lloyd was hanging three stories up above a mattress that would catch him if he fell. And while falling three stories onto a mattress is far less dangerous than falling from 12 stories onto a street, Lloyd was quoted as saying: “Who wants to fall three stories onto a mattress?”

On the Harold Lloyd website the actor said this about the inspiration for the stunt: “One afternoon in downtown Los Angeles I stopped to watch Bill Strothers, who called himself the Human Spider, scale the sheer walls of a high office building. The higher he climbed the more nervous I grew, until, when he came to a difficult ledge 12 stories up, I had to cut around a corner out of sight of him and peek back to see if he was over the ledge. If it makes me this jumpy, what would it do to a picture audience, I asked myself.”

Photo caption: Harold Lloyd performing his famous clock tower gag from "Safety Last" (1923) ...

Photo credit: Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc./Buena Vista Home Video

Harold Lloyd performing his famous clock tower gag from "Safety Last" (1923) and Jackie Chan paying homage to the stunt in his 1983 film "Project A."

The stunt inspired a scene in Jackie Chan’s 1983 Hong Kong action film "Project A" and Chan readily acknowledges the huge influence silent clowns such as Lloyd and Buster Keaton had on his work.

Enjoy the iconic "Safety Last" from one of the greatest physical comedians of all time and what makes it even better is that the screening is free.

Balboa Park and the Spreckels Organ Society host silent movie night this evening with a screening of Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last."

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