Harold Lloyd – lasting impressions at Grauman’s Chinese

Following Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd was the second actor, and 5th person, to set his handprints at the Chinese Theater forecourt

The short Harold Lloyd walking tour I gave prior to my presentation at the Egyptian Theater included a stop at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  There, on November 21, 1927, Harold Lloyd became the fifth celebrity, and the first comedian, to be immortalized in cement in the theater forecourt.  Preceding him during ceremonies held earlier that year were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, as a couple, Norma Talmadge, and Norma Shearer.  Harold’s first leading lady Bebe Daniels was the 12th inductee at Grauman’s; her prints were made May 13, 1929.

The thumb and index finger of the right hand do not leave a deep impression

If you study his casting closely, you’ll notice that the thumb and forefinger of Harold’s right handprint did not leave a deep impression.  In 1919, Lloyd was severely injured in a life-threatening accident that nearly ended his sky-rocketing career.  Harold was set to pose for a gag publicity photo of him lighting a cigarette with the sputtering fuse of a fake bomb.  Somehow the prop bomb had a real charge that discharged moments after Harold lowered it away from his face.  The explosion ripped a hole in the 16-foot high ceiling of the photo studio, and put Harold in the hospital for over two weeks.  The accident temporarily blinded Lloyd, who lost half of his palm, and the thumb and index finger of his right hand.  For a time it was uncertain whether he would ever appear in films again.

Lloyd performed all of his dangerous stunts with only one complete hand. In this view from Safety Last! you can clearly see that Harold’s right thumb is not grabbing hold of the rope.

Although the accident was news at the time, Lloyd worked hard thereafter to preserve the illusion that he was not injured.  Audiences were generally unaware of Lloyd’s injury, as Lloyd compensated by wearing a tightly fitted glove over a prosthetic thumb and finger when filming.  He also cleverly staged scenes to favor his left hand, filmed mirror reflections of his left hand as his “right,” and used hand doubles for certain close-ups.  When posing for news photos in public, Lloyd usually adopted a causal stance with his right hand in his pocket.

As memorialized in cement, Lloyd also wore his prosthesis when casting his handprints for posterity at Grauman’s.  One has to wonder how this delicate maneuver was staged.  Did someone reach over, and help depress Lloyd’s prosthetic thumb and finger for him?  In the end, Lloyd’s handprints provide mute testimony to the enduring power of movie magic.

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7 Responses to Harold Lloyd – lasting impressions at Grauman’s Chinese

  1. Gregg D says:

    John,

    Enjoyed your presentation Sunday at the Egyptian Theater. One bit of trivia in “Girl Shy:” August 3 is displayed twice – first on the single page calendar in the publisher’s office and then on the locket showing the girl with her husband. Was August 3 a significant date for Harold Lloyd?

    Thanks,

    Gregg

  2. Hi Gregg – good eye. I have no idea whether August 3 is significant or not, although I checked in Annette D’Agostino Lloyd’s Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia, and did not discern it was a birth date within the Lloyd family.

    • Gregg D says:

      Thanks, John, for checking. I usually don’t have such a good eye but Aug 3 happens to be my birthday (as well as theater organist Gaylord Carter and Tony Bennett) so thought it might have some significance with Harold Lloyd.

  3. Pingback: How Harold Lloyd Filmed the Girl Shy Trolley Stunts | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  4. sallieparker says:

    Just the other day on YouTube I happened upon the ‘What’s My Line’ with Harold Lloyd as Mystery Guest. I didn’t expect to see the damaged hand, but there it was, clutching the chalk between two fingers and palm, and signing the name in big cursive script! He wrote better than most of the guests.

    It was quick and I don’t think most people caught it. So he was a rightie and didn’t feel he had to switch over to his left, and was still doing very well with the remainder of his right hand in the 1950s!

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