Thursday, January 23, 2014

Safety Last!

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and written by Taylor, Hal Roach, and Tim Whelan, Safety Last! is the story of a small-town guy who goes to the city to make money for a new life with his girlfriend only to find difficulty in this new world. The film explores the world of ambition and desire to succeed in the city as its leading character is played by Harold Lloyd as the country bumpkin who is trying to succeed in this new world. Also starring Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, and Westcott B. Clarke. Safety Last! is an extraordinary comedy from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.

The film’s premise is very simple as it is about a small-town guy trying to impress his girlfriend by working in the city as he pretends to be the head of a department store when he’s really just a clerk. It’s a film that doesn’t require much plot as it does explore a man wanting to make promises to his beloved in the hopes they can get married but finds himself struggling with a world that is fast and chaotic. Especially when his girlfriend makes a surprise visit that complicates matters where he realizes the only way he can get a big payday and pay for the wedding is to climb the department store building so he can generate publicity for that building. Though his friend was supposed to do the stunt, more complications forces the film’s protagonist to do the stunt as it raises questions into why would he do these things for his girlfriend? It all plays to the idea of promises as well as a man’s foolishness to do these things when it doesn’t really matter since she does love him in the first place.

The direction of Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor is very extraordinary in not just the way they set up the comedy but also make it feel natural. Especially as much of the framing and compositions are very engaging for how much of the comedic moments are set-up with some wide shots of an office to showcase everything the film’s protagonist tries to do to impress his girlfriend. It also showcases the sense of craziness that goes on the city where everything is moving as it includes a sequence shot in a speeding ambulance where the film’s hero is trying to get to his job. That sense of craziness would heighten with the film’s most famous sequence in which the hero is climbing a 12-story building where he’s dangling on a clock. It’s a moment in the film that mixes all sorts of slapstick humor with suspense as it would be a moment that is just unforgettable. Overall, Newmeyer and Taylor create a very compelling and entertaining film about a guy trying to impress his lady through a crazy stunt.

Cinematographer Walter Lundin does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the vast look of the city as well as the use of soft-lenses for close-ups. Editor T.J. Crizer does fantastic work in creating some nice rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s suspenseful and comedic moments along with the sequence in the ambulance. The film’s music by Carl Davis, from its 1990 restoration, is brilliant for its jazz-inspired score to play into a lot of the film’s comedy as well as some orchestral pieces for the film’s suspenseful and somber moments.

The film’s cast is great as it features some notable performances from Westcott B. Clarke as the snooty floorwalker whom Harold Lloyd has to work for and Noah Young as a police officer that is always looking for Lloyd’s friend Limpy Bill over some antics that Bill and Lloyd caused. Bill Strother is terrific as Limpy Bill as Lloyd’s roommate who finds himself in trouble with a cop as he manages to escape his clutches by climbing up a building. Mildred Davis is wonderful as Mildred as the woman who surprises Harold by coming to the city as she is oblivious to the fact that he’s just a clerk at a department store. Finally, there’s Harold Lloyd in a magnificent performance as the boy who is trying to make it in the city as Lloyd’s approach to physical comedy and slapstick is just fun to watch as well as the crazy stunts he pulls to entertain an audience as it’s one of his defining performances.

Safety Last! is an outstanding film from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor that features an unforgettable performance from Harold Lloyd. The film is without question one of the great silent comedies of the early 20th century as well an example into why Lloyd was a big star in those times. In the end, Safety Last! is a phenomenal film from Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.

© thevoid99 2014

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