Title: Safety Last
Release Date: April 1, 1923
Director: Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
Production Company: Hal Roach Studios
Harold Lloyd’s most famous comedy film features Lloyd playing a character named “The Boy” who leaves “The Girl” (Mildred Davis) behind in their hometown while he goes to the big city to save up money for their marriage. With lots of scenes filmed on location in Los Angeles, this is a great document of a bustling urban center in the 1920s.
Lloyd’s Boy sends lots of gifts to The Girl, making her think he’s doing well financially when he’s actually struggling. She arrives and he has to pretend he’s a manager rather than a clerk at the department store. Unfortunately this leads to a lot of cringe comedy, where Lloyd builds lie upon lie, getting himself into an increasingly worse situation. Lloyd comes off as kind of a jerk, rather than a protagonist the viewer wishes to support. Luckily this film offers a good share of physical comedy and stunts as well, which Lloyd carries off well.
The most famous stunt is Lloyd climbing up the outside of the Los Angeles skyscraper where his character works. This sequence takes up a significant portion of the latter half of the film. It all begins when The Boy thinks he can get a $1000 reward from his boss by having his friend Limpy Bill (Bill Strother) climb the store building as a promotional event. Unfortunately, Bill is recognized by a cop he’d had a run in with early in the movie and Lloyd climbs a story hoping Bill will take over, but various comic events force him to continue the climb on his own. It’s a great comedic sequence.