Harold Lloyd in “Over the Fence”
Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Harold Lloyd’s first “glasses” comedy Over the Fence (1917). Previous to this experiment on Lloyd’s part he had played other characters, such as Willie Work and Lonesome Luke. The latter character by 1917 had become quite successful, but Lloyd felt limited by the character’s broad clownishness. He wanted to attempt something more realistic, that the audience could relate to more. It was a gamble.
Over the Fence proved a most auspicious beginning. The costume is transitional. Yes he wears the trademark glasses, but he still retains an old fashioned flowing cravat, whiteface and a silly hat, making him look only slightly less outre than his co-star Snub Pollard. Some of these touches would remain as late as 1919. But he already has this new character down, brisk and breezy, full of pep and spirit. He and Pollard play two store clerks who are butting heads over the same girl (Bebe Daniels). When Snub steals Harold’s baseball tickets and brings Bebe to the game himself, Harold one-ups him by sneaking into the locker room, suiting up, and pitching a winning game. For good measure, he beats up Snub and the entire baseball team, and, needless to say, wins the heart of Bebe.
To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.