AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Safety Last!
Director: Fred Newmeyer (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Apr 1923
Duration (in mins):   64
Duration (in feet):   6,300
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast: For Your Approval-- Harold Lloyd (The Boy [Harold Lloyd])  
    Mildred Davis (The Girl [Mildred])  
    Bill Strother (The Pal [Limpy Bill])  
    Noah Young (The Law [Jim Taylor])  
    Westcott B. Clarke (The Floorwalker [Mr. Stubbs])  
    Mickey Daniels (The Kid)  
    Anna Townsend (The Grandma)  

Summary: The Boy, Harold Lloyd, bids farewell to his mother and The Girl, his fiancée Mildred, at the train station in his home town, Great Bend. Harold promises Mildred he will send for her as soon as he finds success in the big city and, after several mishaps, boards the train. A few months later in the city, Harold admits to his best friend and roommate, Limpy Bill, that he pawned their phonograph and record albums to buy Mildred a gold pendant, and consequently, they now have no money for rent. In Great Bend, Mildred is delighted by his gift and the accompanying letter, in which she learns that Harold has a prestigious position at the De Vore Department Store. In truth, Harold is a salesclerk. One day, he nearly misses work when the delivery truck in which he is sitting takes off and does not stop until it is on the other side of the city. Harold then rushes to find swift transportation home, first by clinging to the edge of an overloaded streetcar and then jumping into a stranger’s automobile. He finally fakes an injury in order to get a ride in an ambulance, and then astonishes the attendant when he pretends to awaken and instructs the driver to stop near the store. After seeing a co-worker nearly lose his job because of tardiness, Harold poses as a mannequin and is carried into the store, thereby avoiding the watchful floor manager, Mr. Stubbs. On Saturday after work, Harold encounters Jim Taylor, an old neighbor from Great Bend, who is now a policeman. While Jim makes a telephone call, Harold tells Bill that police let him get away with anything, and convinces Bill to help him trip Jim. However, Harold does not notice that Jim has been replaced by another patrolman. This policeman is so angered by the prank that he chases Bill, an agile construction worker, up the side of a building while Harold hides. Bill safely reaches the roof and eludes the patrolman, who vows to arrest him at their next encounter. Harold later spends his entire paycheck on a necklace for Mildred’s pendant. When she receives it, his mother urges her to immediately visit Harold in the city. Mildred arrives shortly after a frenzied fabric sale at the store, during which Harold was reprimanded by Stubbs for his unkempt appearance. Surprised by Mildred’s visit, Harold attempts to act like a supervisor, and bewilders his co-workers with his behavior. Shortly thereafter, Harold is summoned to the general manager’s office where he receives an official reprimand about his attire. When Mildred sees him exiting the office, however, she assumes it is his office and insists on going inside. Harold distracts her until the general manager leaves, then takes her inside, where they experiment with the paging machine. When Stubbs comes to the office as a result of the page, Harold hides behind a large piece of paper, and impersonating the manager, orders Stubbs to refrain from complaining about their employees’ attire. When the general manager returns, Harold tells Mildred to sit, close her eyes and open her mouth. As a result, Harold tricks the manager into believing that Harold is helping an incapacitated woman. Mildred forgets her purse in the office and when Harold returns for it, he overhears the manager exclaim that he would pay a thousand dollars for a new advertising idea. Harold boldly proposes to draw crowds the very next day by having a “mystery man” climb up the exterior side of the building. Later, Bill agrees to climb the building when Harold offers to split the fee with him. The next day, the store is surrounded by expectant crowds who have heard of the stunt through the newspapers. When Bill is detained by the policeman on whom they pulled their earlier prank, he urges Harold to climb to the second floor in his place, by which time he expects to elude the cop and replace Harold. Harold reluctantly agrees but when he reaches the second floor, the policeman is still chasing Bill. Harold unsteadily climbs floor after floor, but Bill never loses his pursuer. Although Harold nearly falls several times, and at one point perilously clings to the hands of a large clock, he eventually reaches the roof ledge, where his foot catches in a rope and he is swung upside down several times. When he lands on the rooftop, he is greeted with a kiss from a relieved Mildred. Harold then sees Bill still being pursued by the policeman across the rooftops. Harold and Mildred walk to the door leading to the stairs, and he unintentionally steps out of his shoes when they get stuck in a puddle of tar.  

Production Company: Hal Roach Studios  
Brand Name: Pathécomedy
Distribution Company: Pathé Exchange, Inc. (Pathé Distributors)
Director: Fred Newmeyer (Dir)
  Sam Taylor (Dir)
  Robert A. Golden (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal Roach (Pres)
Writer: Hal Roach (Story)
  Sam Taylor (Story)
  Tim Whelan (Story)
  H. M. Walker (Titles)
Photography: Walter Lundin (Photog)
Art Direction: Fred L. Guiol (Tech staff)
  C. E. Christensen (Tech staff)
  J. L. Murphy (Tech staff)
Film Editor: T. J. Crizer (Ed)
Production Misc: Fred L. Guiol (Tech staff)
  C. E. Christensen (Tech staff)
  J. L. Murphy (Tech staff)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Pathé Exchange, Inc. 25/1/1923 dd/mm/yyyy LU18608

Physical Properties: b&w:

Genre: Comedy
Subjects (Major): Department stores
  Publicity stunts
Subjects (Minor): Chases
  Employer-employee relations
  Impersonation and imposture
  Mannequins (Figures)
  Mothers and sons

Note: The film’s footage is listed variously as 6,114 ft., 6,300 ft. or approximately 6,400 ft. Safety Last! was one of comedian Harold Lloyd’s most popular films. The image of Lloyd hanging from the hands of a giant clock became a trademark for him. A Jul 1923 article in Photoplay notes the following about the production: Although Lloyd performed most of his own stunts, a double was used in long shots, and a circus performer was used in the scene in which he dangles from a rope. The buildings were of varying heights and sets were constructed on the roofs to match the exterior of the primary building, so that it appeared as if Lloyd was climbing a single building all the way up. Modern sources add the following: Lloyd was inspired to include a climbing scene in a film after watching Bill Strother, a real-life steeplejack, climb the side of a Los Angeles building as a stunt. Lloyd later hired Strother to perform in his film. The climbing in Safety Last! was filmed using a series of buildings from 1st Street to 9th Street in Los Angeles, CA, including the International Bank Building at the corner of Temple St. and Spring St. Although Lloyd did much of his own climbing, Strother doubled for him in several sequences. The character name “Limpy Bill” reportedly came into use after Strother broke his leg just prior to filming. According to modern sources, Safety Last! included the following additional cast: Charles Stevenson ( Ambulance attendant and Laundry man ), Gus Leonard ( Office worker ), Helen Gilmore ( Customer ), Fred Newmeyer ( Man in car ), Earl Mohan ( Drunk ), Richard Daniels ( Man in sale ), Wallace Howe ( Man with flowers ), Roy Brooks and James T. Kelley. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   8 Apr 1923   p. 2.
MPW   31 Mar 1923   p. 551, 567.
MPW   7 Apr 1923   p. 681.
New York Times   2 Apr 1923   p. 22.
Photoplay   Jun 1923   p. 65.
Photoplay   Jul 1923   p. 33, 117.
Variety   5 Apr 1923   p. 36.

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