Interview with Suzanne Lloyd
Silent DVD: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Suzanne Lloyd: Oh, it's my pleasure. I have been waiting for a long time to get these films put out on DVD so it's really my pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for taking the interview and spreading the word about Harold.
SD: I've been waiting a long time to get these film on DVD myself, so I'm just giddy about the fact that these are being released.
SL: Thank you very, very much. I've been working on this for eight years trying to get them in the right place and in the right hands. Luckily I was very fortunate to have New Line embrace it, really step to the plate and allow me to have a pretty free hand in producing this package. Their enthusiasm and the amount of creativity that they were able to put into it is really amazing.
SD: I have to apologize in advance for starting off with a question that you are probably asked a lot.
SL: (laughs) It's okay.
SD: You are Harold Lloyd's granddaughter and co-wrote a biography about him (Harold Lloyd, Master Comedian) as well as compiling a book of his 3-D photographs (Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D), so you obviously know a lot about him, but how well did you know your grandfather while he was alive?
SL: My grandparents, Mildred and Harold, they actually raised me. I was like their third daughter. I lived with them at Greenacres from the day I was born till the time that they passed away. So I was their child. They raised me as their daughter. I traveled with them, Harold taught me how to drive a car. Thank God he did my algebra homework or I never would have gotten through that class.
SL: My grandmother was a hands-on Mom, she went to PTA meetings and had birthday parties for me and they were just my parents. I lived with them my whole life and so I never knew another home except living with my grandparents. My mother, Gloria, who is in the DVD with me in two interviews, is their eldest child.
SD: I've heard that on the set, Harold was a very hard worker and that he paid a lot of attention to detail and was very concerned about making his films the best that he could. How does that compare to his private life? What was he like as an individual?
SL: He was very humble, he was very kind. He was very intrigued about anybody, very intrigued about life and enjoyed life. He was always seeking knowledge, whether it was from a word game, or mathematics or the photography. He loved 3-D photography. He took over 300,000 3-D photographs. Whether it was mastering paints, he came up with the secondary complimentary colors in oil paints; he was kind of a Renaissance man he was always pursuing a new goal or interest. And he always wanted to be on top of it. He bowled two 300 games in tournament play. He was always very competitive. But he was always very open for you to go talk to him, about a problem or anything. He was good with kids; he was great with my friends. He wasn't snobby, he wasn't nasty, he wasn't full of himself. I can't say he wasn't temperamental, he didn't like losing at cards.
He was just an amazing person with a love for life. He had an amazing love for life.
SD: I'm glad to hear you say that your grandfather was so kind. I've always loved the Kevin Brownlow anecdote about how he first Harold Lloyd. As a young man he had sent Harold a letter and didn't hear back from him. Then he got a phone call one afternoon. Harold Lloyd was in London and called him and said "Let's meet for dinner."
SL: Yep, that's right. Kevin and I are really close. I did that documentary with Kevin and David Gill…
SD: Yes, Harold Lloyd the Third Genius. (Suzanne Lloyd was an executive producer.)
SL: One time when I was in London with Harold, Kevin invited us to his house. Kevin took me aside and said "Sue, don't say a word. You know how your grandfather feels about his films and his films getting out, whether they are pirated or copied. I've got some Harold Lloyd movies here and I've stuck them under my bed in my bedroom. I hope he doesn't start snooping around." <laughs> I just said "Okay Kevin, I won't say anything."
Dad (sic) was always saying "Now Kevin, how did you see those films?" He loved Kevin and thoroughly enjoyed his time with him and was thrilled that he was very interested in his movies and documenting them.
He was very generous with his time with people. He was generous with his time with a lot of actors too. From Jack Lemon to Robert Wagner, Tyron Power, putting Lucille Ball in her first movie A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob. He enjoyed doing that and helping. He was a very generous person.
On the set, he was always open to his crew members coming to him and saying "You know Harold, I don't know if that worked or not." He also mentored his crew especially Sam Taylor, to get the guys who were writers and make them into directors so they would move along in their career. He also said to me "You know, I can be an actor and a producer, and I know what I want to see on the screen, but I can't stand behind a camera and know what I'm doing in front of the camera. I need help I need somebody to talk to me and tell me how things look. He always wanted people's opinions, for people to collaborate with him. He wanted everything to filter through him, it was definitely his project, but he wanted input.
SD: That's what I have always heard. That he was most interested in making a great film, and that he didn't care where the ideas came from as long as it made the film better.
SL: Yes that's what he wanted, a great film. And he wanted to work with the people that he worked with. He kept his crew together; he always kept them on staff at the studio. He kept them because he wanted that collaboration and he comfortable with working with them. That's why you see the same names [on his films]: Walter Lundin the cinematographer, Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, he liked working with these guys. They knew what pace he was at and what he was getting to. That gave him security I think. He didn't have to break in new people and he could reach farther into what he wanted to do as a filmmaker. Harold Lloyd really was a filmmaker. He was an actor, granted, and he was a star, but he was actually an independent producer. People have to realize that he was producing those films from 1924 on himself with his own money, his own studio, and he was a filmmaker. He was involved in every aspect from the camerawork to his stunts. He was truly an independent filmmaker.
SD: Oh yeah. That's one of the reasons we have this DVD set. Since he owned his films he was able to keep control of them and he kept the negatives and good prints. Which brings me to another question I had: Do you think he would be surprised to see how popular his films are? I was at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this past year and the line to see For Heaven's Sake stretched down the street and around the block. Do you think your grandfather would be surprised to see that his films are still so popular so many years later?
SL: I definitely know it would warm his heart. He might be surprised. He always had faith in his film for the pure entertainment. He always used to say that if you deliver a film that will hold up, that people walk out and they are talking about it and they are happy; that will make a film live forever.
He was so modern in his approach to the glass character that he had. He was always dealing in reality. He made his comedies so it could happen to somebody. It could happen to you, it could happen to your brother or your sister, or your dad. It was all based on reality.
SD: It was very easy to identify with his character too.
SL: Yes, he was a person that you knew. He was identifiable to who you were. You felt that you were him. Do you ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David?
SD: Oh yes.
SL: You sit there and you go "Oh my God Larry, where are you going with this?" Then you think "I've been there, I've done that."
SD: Oh yeah, most definitely.
SL: It's that same type of thing. It's reality based comedy. He's really dealing with the people of here and now. He worked on that, to make it that way, and to be a person who blended in the crowd.
SD: I heard that he didn't have a problem going to restaurants and such when he didn't have his glasses on. The he wouldn't be recognized.
SL: Yes, he loved doing that. And sometimes he'd say "I'm Harold Lloyd" and people would look at him and go "huh?" He loved doing that when he was younger, when he was on top of the game making the movies. He could slip in and out of places and nobody would know who he was. The loved doing that, though some of his friends used to get really angry with him. There's a story about concerning Fairbanks and Pickford on the DVD. They used to pick on him because they used to get mobbed all the time. They'd point him out. "You want to meet a really big star, there's Harold Lloyd." And they all run over. Harold would just sit there and laugh.
SD: (laughs) That's great.
SL: He was fine with his fans. When I came along he was working for the Shriner's hospital for crippled children so he wasn't making movies, and so it took me a Fperiod of time before I realized that he was really a film star. Then I'd go places with him, press previews or whatever, and people would really make a production and sometimes we'd get mobbed. One time I got mobbed in New York with him coming out of a Broadway play and all these fans were there and they realized it was him. I got pulled away from him and I was really angry. I said "Oh my God, I've never seen people go after you like that for autographs and pictures and they just pushed me away from you and I couldn't get back to the car." Luckily my uncle, Harold Jr., came grabbed me, but I was really annoyed. He said "Sue, you have to realize those are the fans and those people are the people who care for you and support you. Those are the people who come to the movies. You have to extend yourself if you decide to become a public person and be in moves. You have to be nice and kind and open most of the time. You have to put yourself out there." He didn't want to be rude. It's almost like he's saying "Thank you for supporting me."
SD: That's a very good attitude, and I know it's hard to keep a positive and upbeat opinion of your fans after being mobbed like that.
SL: He did. He was very grateful that they all came and saw his films and enjoyed them. I think it made him feel good. He used to get kind of annoyed with other actors and he'd say "Why do they not want to sign autographs? Those are their fans, those people are really taking care of them."
SD: Yeah, he was right. I'd like to talk to you a little bit this set. It's a great compilation, and includes all of the movies that I hoped to get on DVD. But there are a couple of things that are missing, and wanted to know if there was any chance that they might see the light of day on a future set. For example, the Lonesome Luke comedies: I understand that there is still a couple in existence. Does the Harold Lloyd Trust have access to them?
SL: There are some in existence, and I have a lot of the glasses character one-reelers that are not out. Hopefully we'll be able to get them out on the next set. I also did not release Welcome Danger which I've just restored the silent version, and it has just been scored, with a brand new score, which will be shown theatrically starting early next year.
SD: That's great news. That was one of the films that I was going to ask you about.
SL: Then I have the talking version, and the silent version. They're similar but they're dissimilar. He put in different cast members in the talking version verses the silent version, he reshot scenes, of course the dialog and the title cards are different. There's a great difference between the two versions of that movie.
SD: I would love to be able to see them back to back.
SL: Hopefully New Line will put them out for you John.
SD: Professor Beware also isn't included in the set either.
SL: Well Professor Beware is actually owned by Paramount. So we'd have to go and petition Paramount.
SD: The other one that I assume rights would be a problem is The Sin of Harold Diddlebock/Mad Wednesday.
SL: Yes, Universal. The Sin of Harold Diddlebock I believe is public domain, but Mad Wednesday isn't. There is a tie up there because that's Howard Hughes producing that. I don't know.
SD: It would be nice to see the two different versions of that.
SL: Yes, it would be nice to see the two versions.
SD: There's one last question that I'd like to ask: When people talk about Harold Lloyd's films Safety Last! and The Freshman are always mentioned. Are there any films in this set that you think are underrated, or that you think should get a little more attention?
SL: (instantly) Speedy. Definitely. And Girl Shy where he is the writer who writes about the secrets of making love, but he's so girl shy that he can't speak to a girl. And, also, it's very interesting he plays a millionaire, Harold Manners in For Heaven's Sake.
SD: Oh yes!
SL: And it's funny that nobody ever talks about Hot Water. Well, you saw For Heaven's Sake.
SL: You probably hadn't seen that on a screen before had you?
SD: No. As a matter of fact, I saw most of these films on TV when PBS broadcast them in the 70's. That's where I first encountered Harold Lloyd, and that's what really made me into a silent film buff. They made me realize how well these feature length films can stand up so many years later.
SL: Harold really converted you? That's wonderful to know.
SD: Well this is a wonderful set. I'd like to thank you for working so hard to get it out to everyone.
SL: I'm just so happy now the fans won't hate me anymore. (laughs.) Believe me, there's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that boxed set, and a lot of time. A lot of time. I had great help. I have a guy who works for me, Chuck Johnson who has just been brilliant at this whole process.
Then there's more work to do. Spreading the word is basically it. I've never seen an audience go bad looking at a Harold Lloyd movie. I used to be petrified of that. I'd speak before a show and I'd be thinking "I hope it goes well, I hope it goes well." Finally somebody said "Don't worry Sue, go out and introduce and talk about the film. Once it gets on the screen, Harold takes care of Harold.
SD: (laughs) Yes, he certainly does. Watching these films is such a treat. They are so clear and clean. I think fans will be very pleased with the set, and I'll bet you'll get a lot of new fans who are exposed to him for the first time.
SL: I hope the fans really like this. I did my best, I really did.
SD: I've been very happy with what I've seen. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
SL: Thank you John.
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