"On a Sunday in August of 1919, Harold posed for a photographer. The set-up called for him to light a cigarette with a prop bomb -- the round, black, type you might see in the cartoons. The bomb wasn’t a prop at all; it exploded in his hand. It ripped open the sixteen-foot ceiling and left Harold blind and with most of his right hand missing. Doctors told him he would never see again."The doctors were wrong and eventually his sight did return. In a few years, his career would come back stronger than ever. Here are two of his better known shorts, "Safety Last" from 1923 and "Driving around New York City" from 1928.
“Safety Last!” was the story of an industrious fellow who climbed a skyscraper to win his girl. It’s the ultimate thrill comedy. Harold performed the hair-raising comedic stunt all by himself with only one complete hand. There were no fake backgrounds or computer graphics back in 1923. Strategic camera angles created the dizzy drops. At no time in filming could Harold have fallen more than three stories, but as Harold liked to remind his critics, “Who wants to fall three stories onto a mattress?”
In this one, Harold is a New York City cabdriver. Special guest appearance by Babe Ruth at about the 1:35 mark. He needs to get to Yankee stadium in a hurry. This short contains great scenes of 1920's NYC traffic.
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