Safety Last, USA 1923

Screening on Sunday June 21st at 3 p.m. from a 35mm print with live musical accompaniment

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Friends who have seen Martin Scorsese’s Hugo will have seen a clip from this film. It is famous for the stunts performed by its star Harold Lloyd. Lloyd was one of the three great comic stars of Hollywood in the 1920s; along with Chaplin and Keaton. He had his own distinctive persona with a straw boater and earnest and spectacled visage and a sort of ‘college boy’ character. He shared his mentors’ gift for timing but was especially skilled in stunt work.

This is ‘small town’ boy makes good in the big city. Much of the film uses the setting of the Department Store, one of the canonic images in 1920s cinema. The film offers the romantic  sweetheart back home, the trials and tribulations which the hero must overcome, and some of the most dare-devil stunts in films of that era. The screenplay moves deftly from gag to gag whilst developing an increasing drama and tension.

The last time I saw a print it had an added soundtrack, but this can be switched off. Certainly when it originally played at the Picture House it would have had a musical accompaniment. And the same pleasure will be available this Sunday with an accompaniment by Darius Battiwalla. Darius is an experienced and accomplish accompanist and he has a particular skills in adding to the action and pointing up character.

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This is a film that is a ‘must’ for your ‘have seen’ list.

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