HAROLD LLOYD: The Man on the Clock by Tom Dardis

HAROLD LLOYD: The Man on the Clock

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dardis (Keaton) tries hard to find material for a full-fledged Harold Lloyd biography here--""In actuality, Lloyd's behavior was as obsessive and, in its way, as interesting as either of his rivals'""--but this short book (to be filled out with 136 black-and-white photos) remains light on life-story, heavy on routine film-by-film rundowns. Lloyd's Midwest background, Dardis stresses, wasn't quite as Horatio-Alger-ish as he liked to make out: his father was a ne'er-do-well; his mother was a whiny pusher (""at least partially responsible for Harold's attitude [towards women], which would now be classified as sexist""); the parents were divorced by the time young stagestruck Harold hit Hollywood in 1913. The emphasis thereafter, however, is almost exclusively on filmmaking and film business. Harold is followed from extra work to first comedies with Hal Roach, the scores of imitation-Chaplin ""Lonesome Luke"" films. Then came the ""glasses character""--as theater-loving Lloyd ""became an actor again. . . not just another slapstick comedian in the shadow of Chaplin."" The character's ""sheer energy and ingenuity,"" and Lloyd's perfectionism, soon produced one hit after another, despite a maiming hand-injury from an exploding bomb-prop: Safety Last, which stereotyped Lloyd as a daredevil (thanks in part to his own sly hyping of the filming dangers); The Freshman, The Kid Brother (""the most perfectly organized of all Lloyd's films""), etc. But with the advent of sound, he became ""a talking comedian,"" his character lost its charm, and by the Forties his career was over. So his later years--made comfortable by wise investment--were spent in travel, nude photography (with probable philandering), and family matters (brief references to the alcoholism of both his wife and his homosexual son). Dardis dwells on Lloyd's superstitiousness; he takes very minor issue with Walter KerFs view of Lloyd as less naturally gifted than Chaplin or Keaton; he feels that Richard Schickel (The Shape of Laughter, 1974) was too critical of Lloyd's showplace estate. For the most part, however, there's little that's new here--and while some readers will appreciate Dardis' straightforward, biographical approach, most are likely to prefer the more eloquent, evocative appreciations of Kerr, Shickel, and others.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Viking