Friday, June 20, 2014
I mentioned the actor Harold Lloyd in my post about showing my kids what we term "source material" on movie night. Harold Lloyd is probably my favorite star from the silent movie era, but he's not as well remembered today as Charlie Chaplain or Buster Keaton. My kids think he looks like a grown up Harry Potter. Even people who don't know who he is are still likely to have seen the iconic image of him hanging from a clock in Safety Last.
But I wanted to write this post because while looking up information for the kids about the making of Safety Last I learned something I haven't been able to get out of my mind all week. It's something I'm sure I knew once and just forgot, but now that I've learned it again I keep thinking about it.
In 1919, Harold Lloyd was handed a real bomb by a prop man during a photo shoot, and it exploded in his hand tearing off his thumb and forefinger. But what is truly amazing is that he went on to continue to do movies where he performed most of his own stunts. And these aren't just little stunts--the man scaled buildings and did incredible tricks that required great strength and perfect timing.
So when he was dangling from window ledges and that clock in Safety Last, he was doing it with only one good hand. That is unbelievable to me. The stunts are impressive enough when you think he did them with two. (The funniest part about the clip in that link is watching him pretend he's not good at climbing buildings.)
In all his films after the accident his right hand was covered in a prosthetic white glove to conceal his injury. Once you know to look for it, you start to notice that he does all of his intricate gesturing with only his left, and that he never grabs anything with his right using more than his last few fingers. It's artfully done most of the time, and you would never notice the glove if you didn't know to look for it.
I worry about anything happening to my hands. I seriously wonder what kind of livelihood I could make for us without them, so I'm sure that's why this story haunts me a bit. The idea that a movie star could suffer that kind of bodily disaster and go on to keep cranking out films is amazing. If he'd shied away from cameras after the bomb blew up his hand and declined to do stunt work anymore nobody would have blamed him. Instead he went on to make his best and most daring work.
So I guess the lesson is don't let anything stop you from doing what you feel you're meant to do. And don't trust the prop guy.