Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Lloyds: Funny Is the Family Business

Suzanne Lloyd

Actress and film preservation advocate Suzanne Lloyd is sick. She has bronchitis; she also has Strep Throat. Her doctor has told her to take it easy. And she's going to miss the first day of the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival because of it.

None of this is keeping her from talking almost non-stop about her grandfather, Harold Lloyd, the great comedic actor.

"He was the inventor of romantic comedy," she says. "He did about five 'thrill' films, where he ran around and climbed on stuff, but the majority are about romance and the funny experiences of an ordinary guy."

Suzanne will introduce a free showing of two Lloyd films, BILLY BLAZES, ESQ. and SAFETY LAST! (the one where he hangs off a clock tower), at 7:30 p.m. at the Meyerson Symphony Center on Sunday.

The screening is special to her, because SAFETY LAST! was the last film in which her grandmother, Mildred Davis, played his leading lady. "After its release, he married her. So it's very personal to me. I was basically raised by my grandparents," she says.

Though Lloyd is best known for his madcap antics, Suzanne says his legacy is really based in his determination to relate to everyday people.

"When he assumed his glasses character," she says, "he felt strongly that he didn't want to be a grotesque or make it seem like he was wearing a costume. At the time glasses weren't the fashion statement they are today. People who had to wear them were geeks, nerds and just normal people. He actually made glasses fashionable."

In his films, Lloyd plays funny characters, for sure. But they're characters with foibles that anybody with a normal life can relate to: taxi drivers, college freshmen, a guy with a flat tire.

Suzanne also admires Lloyd's drive and determination to perform after an accident on the set of 1920's Haunted Spooks, his third film with Mildred, nearly ended his career.

"He was shooting stills and thought it'd be funny to have a shot where he was lighting a cigarette off a bomb. It was supposed to be a fake bomb but it wasn't. He lost half his right hand and temporarily lost his sight in both eyes."

Lloyd did his own stunts, so losing part of his hand could have interfered with his ability to perform. But he had a special glove made and continued his career.

"When he recovered, he went right back and started working on the same scene that he had the accident on," Suzanne says.

She has recently completed preservation work on 28 of her grandfather's films and released them with New Line Home Video. It's the first time Lloyd’s work has been available for DVD collectors.

"I learned preservation from him. He was involved in his own films and the artwork. He gave me a wonderful jewel with his work."

BILLY BLAZES, ESQ. and SAFETY LAST! screen Saturday March 24, 7:30pm, at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

by Marc Lee – Editor