Re: Possible biopics (Re: Chaplin Biopic (Was: Re: Greetings))

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: alt.movies.chaplin,alt.movies.silent
Date: Monday, February 23, 1998 12:07 PM

Feuillade wrote in message
<>… Beginning by quoting me:
>> Harold Lloyd's life lends itself well to a biographical
>> movie. The bomb-explosion that took away two of
>> Harold's fingers and also Lloyd's hope for several
>> months, would provide a terrific action sequence as
>> well as a dramatic focus for the movie.
>Very smart comment.
>> Other events of the story could relate to that event:
>> Harold's climbing buildings in subsequent films could
>> be shown to be more dangerous for him than for others
>> because of his lessened abilities to grasp ornaments,
>> pillars and balconies. Lloyd's optimism and his displaying
>> of go-getter ingenuity in his life and in his film roles,
>> could be depicted as a victory over the defeat that nearly
>> took his life, or his physical integrity, or his will to
>> accomplish superior goals without recourse to despair.
>Nicely put.
>> That Lloyd had fewer permanent or semi-permanent
>> women in his life than Chaplin would also enable these
>> roles to be more fully developed than their counterparts
>> in the Chaplin/Downey Jr. picture.
>This is how I would structure a Lloyd biopic:
>1) Lloyd arrives in California
>2) Meets Hal Roach
>3) Struggles to get established as an actor
>4) Becomes a huge success with Lonesome Luke
>5) Romance with Bebe Daniels.
>6) Dis[s]atisfied with Luke character. Fights with Roach. Dumped by Bebe Daniels
>because she thinks he'll never make it.
>7) Discovers the glasses character
>8) Success with the glasses character. He's on his way…
>9) Bomb explosion. Two fingers blown off his right hand. His career in pictures
>is over
>10) Roach to the rescue: Gets glove to cover up injury.
>11) Meets Mildred Davis, who'll become his costar and wife.
>12) Filming of climb for "Safety Last": overcomes his handicap and creates a
>masterpiece of film comedy.
>Now, you'll notice that this doesn't cover more than a dozen years of a man who
>lived to be in his 70s. It doesn't cover large chunks of his life.

I believe we miss a great chance at exciting action sequences and a fuller understanding of Harold's personality, screen persona and life by cutting the story off after "Safety Last." Why not have the finales from "Girl Shy" and "Speedy"? In between these films, we would see the off-screen Harold solidifying his business plans. Remember, it was after "Safety Last" that Lloyd left Roach's employ (while remaining friends with him) and formed his own company. These events would paint a fuller picture of Harold's effectiveness at being brought to a better life by his optimistic approach to living.

I also think that a mistake is made in not showing his exuberance in later life. In the book "3-D Hollywood" (a collection of Lloyd's stereoscopic photographs), Susan Lloyd Hayes (Lloyd's granddaughter by adoption, no known relation to me) writes that after his retirement from the screen, when he spent much time traveling and experimenting with the still-new process of 3-D photography, he was fearless in his efforts to get a desirable photograph. He would climb to the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Space Needle in Seattle.

This would make a wonderful place to end a biographical film. It would show that even though he was much older than most men are when they lose their daredevil drive--even though Hollywood no longer had a place for his persona in front of the cameras--even though he was photographing mere still pictures and doing so not for a mass audience but strictly for himself--even though he was missing two fingers--he sought to do what was unique and exciting. This is the triumph of the human spirit.

Going back to:
>1) Lloyd arrives in California
>2) Meets Hal Roach
>3) Struggles to get established as an actor
>4) Becomes a huge success with Lonesome Luke
>5) Romance with Bebe Daniels.

Depicting Harold's early years in Hollywood may be a tricky business, dramatically speaking. Sure, we'd need to establish setting and his objective, but a good movie can't merely depict dry events apart from the personality. Would Harold merely seem to be one of the teeming horde seeking to make a name in show business because he had no other marketable skills? If so, why should he be interesting to an audience, and why should they care that he was the one who had the "luck"? The answers lie in Harold's approach to problems, as indicated by me elsewhere in this thread.

We would want to see that even while Harold was a success (with the public) in his Lonesome Luke character, he was dissatisfied with it. We might see him reluctantly coaxed into playing Lonesome Luke with arguments (by Roach, perhaps) that the market is hungry for Chaplin imitators, so why not Lloyd to help fill a void that would be supplied by someone else if not him. Of course, we shouldn't make it look like drudgery and wasted time for Harold, as he will have fun while working with Bebe and Snub and that he will hone his comedy crafts. He should have one eye on his professional development and the other on his desire to satisfy an internal craving and provide audiences with a (as yet unclear to him) personal vision that they would enjoy once they have experienced it.

(In my proposal for the early years, I'm following the example of "The Glenn Miller Story." In that movie, Miller is shown to be a success writing arrangements of others' tunes all the while that he tells his friends and associates that he keeps hearing "a new sound" in his head that he can't figure out how to translate to sheet music or specific instruments. In the case of Harold Lloyd, I'm extrapolating my knowledge of Harold's dissatisfaction with Lonesome Luke in 1917 to make it seem that he had at least a rudimentary (perhaps unacknowledged to himself) disfavor of it in 1915 (or of his Willie Work character in 1914), yet for the sake of dramatic coherence, I believe this to be justified. (If any Lloyd scholars have a better understanding of Lloyd's early opinions of his Chaplin-derivative characters, please express it in this thread.))

David Hayes


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