After first posting about the location and studio connections between The Artist (2011) and Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, and then posting about the connections between The Artist and Roger Rabbit and Buster Keaton, it’s time for Harold Lloyd to get in on the act.
The Artist begins with the triumphant 1927 Hollywood premiere of silent film star George Valentin’s latest hit movie, A Russian Affair. In my first post I explain that the Warner Bros. backlot stood in for exterior shots of the theater. The interior scenes, where George basks in the adulation of his fans, was filmed inside the historic Orpheum Theater, located in the heart of the Los Angeles Historic Core, at 842 S. Broadway.
The Orpheum Theater first opened February 15, 1926. No expense was spared in the theater’s design and construction, from its beautiful marble lobby and magnificent chandeliers, to the leaded glass panels beneath its enormous balcony. In its heyday, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and the Marx Brothers all played at the Orpheum. Mr. Orpheum, for whom the theater was named, was the “O” of RKO Pictures (Radio-Keith-Orpheum). The theater’s famous Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ is the last remaining originally installed theater organ in Los Angeles. The theater is one of the crown jewels of the Broadway movie palaces located in the downtown Historic Core, and appears frequently in movie and television productions.
Harold Lloyd filmed his iconic skyscraper clock sequence from Safety Last!, and similar death-dying scenes from his second talking picture Feet First, on the rooftops of extant buildings located just steps from the Orpheum Theater appearing in The Artist. In all, Lloyd filmed five building-climbing stunt pictures in the Los Angeles Historic Core, which I dissect in great detail in my Harold Lloyd location book Silent Visions.
Lloyd achieved the illusion of filming at great height by constructing the facade of a building atop a tall building, adjacent to a tall camera tower. The camera looked down from the tower on the face of the set, and the street far below, while keeping the real building’s roof outside the bottom of the movie frame. Because the camera recorded exactly what was there to be seen, these scenes crackle with authenticity that blue-screen computer effects fail to replicate.
Harold’s grand-daughter Suzanne Lloyd and I had the honor of introducing a sold-out screening of Safety Last! on June 29, 2011 at the Orpheum Theatre, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Conservancy’s “Last Remaining Seats.” As part of the show, I prepared a self-guided walking tour of the downtown Los Angeles locations used by Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!, along with locations from Lloyd’s climbing stunts in Never Weaken (1921) and Feet First (1930), and behind the scenes images showing how Lloyd staged his famous skyscraper-climbing sequences. You can access the tour here. Harold Lloyd Safety Last Tour – Silent Visions.
Be sure to see Part 4 of my posts about the The Artist here.
Another of my posts about Safety Last! appears here.
The Artist (C) La Petite Reine, The Weinstein Company.
HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.
The Orpheum Theater