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Photos That Made a Clown Happy

'Harold Lloyd's Rogues' Gallery' includes personal photos of many of the most famous people of his day. It goes on view Saturday.

January 08, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Legendary movie clown Harold Lloyd's Rogues' Gallery of one-of-a-kind celebrity photographs is receiving its first public exhibition at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.

The academy is kicking off the two-month exhibition Friday evening with a screening of Lloyd's 1928 classic "Speedy." Robert Israel and a 19-piece orchestra will accompany the comedy, which was recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The "Harold Lloyd's Rogues' Gallery" exhibition officially opens Saturday to the public.

Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were the kings of silent film comedy. A comedic everyman, Lloyd assumed the guise of a bespectacled young man with a penchant for straw hats. A clean-cut Horatio Alger-type, Lloyd's characters overcame adversity with luck, pluck and virtue, and ultimately got the girl.

Among his classic films were "Girl Shy," "Why Worry?" and "The Freshman." Lloyd, who died in 1971, is best known for his 1923 film "Safety Last," in which he dangled from a clock high above the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

The Rogues' Gallery was actually a Christmas gift to Lloyd 60 years ago from his wife, Mildred, and her good friend Marion Davies.

Mildred Lloyd had her secretaries write up letters to friends, politicians and leading figures of the day to ask them to autograph their favorite personal photograph of themselves.

"Everybody sent him back photographs," says Suzanne Lloyd Hayes, Lloyd's granddaughter and trustee of the Harold Lloyd Estate and Film Trust.

For more than 30 years, the Rogues' Gallery hung in a long hallway in the bottom floor of his Beverly Hills mansion, Greenacres.

"The last person added to the Rogues' Gallery was actually Robert Wagner," says Lloyd Hayes. "He was a good friend of my grandparents before he was an actor. My mother met him at a wedding."

The exhibition will feature 160 autographed photos of such movie greats as Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire, John Barrymore, Jack Benny and George Burns, as well as political and historical figures such as Helen Keller, Calvin Coolidge, Amelia Earhart, Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Ford.

Also included in the exhibition are memorabilia from "Speedy" and Lloyd's famous spectacles.

"He was one of the 12 founding members of the academy," Lloyd Hayes says. "He won an Academy Award in 1952 for 'good citizenship and master comedian.' I'm bringing his Oscar and his gold membership card."

"Speedy," says Ellen Harrington, the academy's program coordinator for exhibitions and special events, was the perfect film to open the exhibition because it was the only Lloyd film to receive an Oscar nomination. Ted Wilde was nominated for best comedy director, a category eliminated by the academy after its first year.

"It's such a fun film," Harrington says. "So much of it is very contemporary in its sense of humor."

"He's so vital," Lloyd Hayes says of her grandfather. "He's an all-American boy with a lot of spunk and energy in him that's almost timeless."

Though Carl Davis has written a new score for the restored "Speedy," the British composer wasn't able to conduct the academy screening. Israel's score, says Harrington, consists of source music from the era. "It's all originally orchestrated to be historically accurate," she says.

Audience members will also be able to sing along with the hit song of the day "Speedy Boy." "It was the first movie song tie-in to go with a feature," Harrington says. "We do have the original glass slides that the lyrics were projected on, so we are transferring that to film, and we are going to run the lyrics and do sort of a following the bouncing ball thing."

"I like to show [his films] with a full orchestra," Lloyd Hayes says. "That is what he wanted to do. He really was moving to show the films in a very progressive way, with an orchestra [instead of a piano or organ]."

"Speedy" tells the story of an earnest, baseball-crazy young man who saves New York's last horse-drawn trolley, owned by his girlfriend's grandfather, from being stolen.

Shot on location in New York, the film features a funny cameo by Babe Ruth and a spectacular chase through the streets of Manhattan.

"He was the first person to take his whole studio crew--38 people--and put them on the Super Chief and take them to New York and shoot it on location," says Lloyd Hayes, who will participate in a panel discussion on the making of "Speedy" prior to the screening.

"You get this incredible view of these streetcars driving through Lower Manhattan streets," Harrington says. "You can see what New York looked like at that time."

"He had built a back lot to do some of the work here where the Mormon Temple is on Santa Monica Boulevard, but said, 'I can't get New York,' " Lloyd Hayes says.

"He wanted the Brooklyn Bridge, but he couldn't create that in Hollywood. It's amazing. You have Coney Island [in the picture]. You have the Plaza Hotel. You have Central Park. You have Babe Ruth!"

Guess Hollywood's versions are no match for the real thing.

BE THERE

"Speedy," Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Friday at 7:30 p.m.; $3 for academy members and $5 for general public. "Harold Lloyd's Rogues' Gallery," Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; weekends, noon-6 p.m., Saturday through March 15. Admission is free. (310) 247-3600.

'[Lloyd] wanted the Brooklyn Bridge, but he couldn't create that in Hollywood. It's amazing. You have Coney Island [in the picture]. You have the Plaza Hotel. You have Central Park. You have Babe Ruth!'

Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Harold Lloyd's granddaughter

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