Lloyd, 33rd Degree
Comedian, Film Producer, and Freemason
Morris, 32°, N.M.J.
3 Laurelwood Circle,
Haverhill, Massachusetts 01832-1512
C. Lloyd was a true disciple of Freemasonry whose leadership in helping
America's children will never be forgotten.
The famous American silent film
star Harold Clayton Lloyd was born on April 20, 1893, to an itinerant family
in Burchard, Nebraska. It was the year after the first American automobile was
made and the same year that Thomas A. Edison produced the kinetoscope, which
made possible the making of motion pictures. Grover Cleveland had just been
elected President. It was also a year of financial panic and a stock market
crash, which put Lloyd's father in dire financial straits ultimately
influencing the direction Harold's life would later take.
The Lloyd family was constantly on
the move ever seeking for a better life at the end of the rainbow. They
eventually arrived in the Los Angeles area just before World War I in the days
when the new silent films were in their infancy, but already beginning to make
their mark on history. Harold Lloyd was an industrious sort, trying to improve
his lot and taking advantage of whatever opportunities came his way. He was
unable to stand any sort of inactivity.
He first appeared in a few
not-so-well-known movies in 1915, but by 1917 he had progressed in the industry
to the extent that he had already created the glasses-and-straw-hat character,
which would ultimately make him famous. He had barely gotten started on that
career when it almost ended in tragedy two years later. A supposedly dead prop
bomb exploded in his hand almost killing him. He was severely injured and
temporarily blinded. Although his sight eventually returned, he lost his right
thumb and forefinger, a severe limitation for such an active individual.
This was "The Golden Age of
Comedy" for silent films, and Lloyd became one of the great film actors and
producers of the time. For over two decades, he was at the forefront of
producing movie classics, over 250, many of which remain popular today. By the
time he was 31, he was a millionaire and the owner of his own movie studio
distributing his films around the world. By 1927, he had become one of the
wealthiest entertainers in the country, due not only to the success of his
productions but also to his shrewd ability to invest wisely. Wealthier than Mary
Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin. or Gloria Swanson, he bought 20
acres in Beverly Hills and built Green Acres, a mansion that came close to
exceeding the San Simeon estate of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper
Some of Harold Lloyd's silent
movies are so hilarious that even reading an account of the action is enough to
generate laughter, let alone seeing the movie itself. For example, his best
comedy is Safety Last, where he plays a lowly clerk trying to impress his
girlfriend by making her think he is a company executive who has devised a
scheme to drum up business by hiring a "human fly" to scale the outside of the
tall department store where he works. The professional climber, however, is run
off by a cop, and Lloyd is forced to climb the building himself. As he climbs
higher and higher, nothing goes right.
Here are just a few of his perils.
A flock of pigeons lands on him to eat some peanuts someone has thrown out a
window; a tennis net thrown out another window enmeshes him; and a painter's
trestle shoved out a higher window almost dislodges him. When he sees the
original "fly" inside the building, Lloyd attempts to change places with him and
is almost knocked off completely, barely grasping the ledge and then the top of
a huge clock. Seeking a better hold, Lloyd grasps the minute hand which
immediately starts to descend, finally causing the entire clock face to open and
leave Lloyd dangling in space. The original climber then throws him a rope which
he has loosely tied to a desk. The knot unties, and Harold is left holding onto
a useless rope. At this point Harold's accomplice and the cop are just barely in
time to rescue him.
Harold then resumes his climb to
the next floor, but when he tries to enter the window, a growling dog forces him
onto a flagpole. Of course, it breaks off, and Lloyd falls back down onto the
clock. He resumes his climb, but, when he is almost to the top, a mouse enters
his pants leg sending him into a fit of twitching which the spectators below
think is part of the act and give him a round of applause. Continuing his climb,
he next encounters a revolving wind gauge, but before being knocked off the
building by it, he accidentally gets entangled in another rope-saving him yet
again from certain destruction. Finally, he reaches the top where his girlfriend
is waiting to end the film with a kiss.
When silent films yielded to
talking pictures, Lloyd sought other outlets for his undiminished energy. He
took up and excelled in bacteriology, photography, bowling, handball,
microscopy, painting, golf, and other activities including a kennel of Great
Danes and multiple garages full of unusual automobiles. His restless
search for activities which would satisfy his drive finally found its peak in
the Shrine and its famed Children's Hospitals.
He was initiated in Alexander
Hamilton Lodge No. 535 of Hollywood in 1925 at the height of his movie career.
After his Third Degree, with his usual thoroughness and energy, he proceeded
through both the York and Scottish Rites, and then joined Al Malaikah Shrine in
Los Angeles. He took his Royal Arch Degree with his father. In 1926, he became a
32° Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Los Angeles, California. In recognition
of his services to the nation and Freemasonry, Bro. Lloyd was invested with the
Rank and Decoration of Knight Commander Court of Honour in 1955 and coroneted an
Inspector General Honorary, 33°, in 1965. As his movie work began to decline, he
replaced it with ever-increasing activity in Masonry, especially the Shrine,
becoming Potentate of the Los Angeles Temple in 1939. By the time he had stopped
making movies altogether in 1949, he had become Imperial Potentate of the Shrine
in North America, the first actor ever to be so recognized. He was installed
into this prestigious position at Soldier Field in Chicago in the presence of a
crowd of 90,000 including the then President of the United States and fellow
Shriner, Ill. Harry S. Truman, 33°.
the Time Magazine article at the link below:
During his term as Imperial
Potentate, he visited all 17 Shrine Hospitals existing at that time and made
approximately 130 other visits across the country to Shrine functions. His fame
had reached a new pinnacle, and he was recognized on the cover of the July 25,
1949, issue of Time magazine and its accompanying cover story entitled
"The World of Hiram Abif."
Lloyd, circa 1950
During the 1950s and 1960s, much
of his time was devoted to the Shrine Hospitals, and he said his work for the
Shrine gave him more satisfaction than anything he'd done in the previous
decades. He was appointed a Director of the Shrine Hospitals for Crippled
Children, and in 1963 he was elected President of the Shriners Hospital
Corporation and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Shriners Hospitals for
Crippled Children. His involvement in these activities was so pervasive that his
granddaughter, Suzanne, believed for years that his occupation was that of
During this period he did,
however, continue to involve himself in various film-related activities. Not
forgetting his Shrine efforts, he produced a film for them in 1948 containing
excerpts from some of his better-known movies, especially Grandma's Boy
and Professor Beware. Then in 1951, he produced another film for the
Shrine and titled it Harold Lloyd's Laugh Parade. In 1952, he received a
special Oscar® from the Academy of Motion Picture Producers in-scribed with the
words "Master Comedian and Good Citizen." He also had been presented a gold
plaque at the first George Eastman Festival of Film Arts.
In 1962, he produced a compilation
of some of his best films, Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy, and took it to
the Cannes Film Festival where he was honored by a standing ovation. Due to this
favorable reception, Lloyd released another compilation of his works, titled
The Funny Side of Life, in 1964. It featured another of his famous films,
By now, though, not only had the
old black-and-white silent films been overtaken by the talkies and color but
also by the completely new medium of television. Although Lloyd was fast
approaching retirement age, he did make a few TV cameo appearances promoting his
films. In 1954, he appeared as a guest on Ralph Edward's show This Is Your
Life honoring the famous actress and his old friend Bebe Daniels. In the
following year, he was himself honored on that same show.
and Mildred Davis
Throughout most of his career,
Harold Lloyd was married to Mildred Davis, who had been his leading lady since
1920. They were married in Hollywood in 1923 when he was 30 years old, just
after they had both starred in Safety Last. Ill. Harold said that
marrying her was the best idea he ever had. They were inseparable, and at the
time of her death in 1969, they had been married for 46 years.
During his last years, Lloyd
became a global traveler visiting exotic places all over the world. After the
death of his wife, he seemed to lose the vitality he had always been known for,
even into his 70s, and he died on March 8, 1971, at the age of 77. He had been a
Mason for over 47 years.
Film critic John Agee wrote, "If
plain laughter is any criterion, few people have equaled him and nobody has ever
beaten him." Seeing photographs of Harold Lloyd visiting Shriners Hospitals,
holding and conversing with crippled children on crutches of all races and
creeds, reveals the feeling he had for this great Masonic cause. His humble
beginnings and his Masonic teachings could not have but enhanced his
understanding of the needs and aspirations of those less fortunate than he. He
was a true disciple of Masonry and an inspiration to all.
Note: The above
article is reprinted from TROWEL Magazine (Fall 1999), a publication of
the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Pictured above is
a Harold Lloyd Money Clip from the Imperial Council session in 1950 depicting
his name within the trademark eyeglasses!
Commemorative Plate of the 1950 Imperial Council Session in Los Angles,
The commemorative plate above
depicts the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple in Los Angeles with the 1950 Imperial
Potentate Harold Lloyd. It also has a Christmas scene with Santa passing
out gifts to children and other children walking in front of a Shriner's
vintage photo (7"x9") Newly made Shriners Roy Rogers, Potentate Harold Lloyd,
Red Skelton, and Dick Powell