Larry Mantle

Discovering Southland history through silent movies

Friday morning on Film Week on AirTalk, I’ll be talking with movie historian John Bengston about his three-book series on silent film locations.  The large-format books are terrific compilations of movie stills, maps, and current photos of locations used in films by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  The Lloyd book is just out.  It’s titled, Silent Visions:  Discovering Early Hollywood and New York through the Films of Harold Lloyd.

One of the pleasures of the book is how thoroughly it describes the techniques Lloyd used for his height-defying stunts in Safety Last.  Bengston lays out the camera angles and shows the structures Lloyd used to create the illusions at the center of the classic film.  As you watch Safety Last, you can’t help but marvel at Lloyd’s stunts.  As you read Bengston’s book, you’ll marvel at the comedic actor’s inventiveness.

It’s still hard for me to comprehend how these three giants of film comedy appeared so early in the art form.  Maybe that’s part of their success – the ability to creatively control their work and the lack of pre-existing rules for how to convey stories on film.  Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd are such complete packages of physical and intellectual ability, the mind boggles.

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