Harold Lloyd, 33rd Degree

Famous Comedian, Film Producer, and Freemason

Robert Morris, 32°, N.M.J.
3 Laurelwood Circle, Haverhill, Massachusetts 01832-1512

Ill. Harold 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 tycoon.

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°.

Read the Time Magazine article at the link below:

 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,853851,00.html

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."

Harold 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 Hospital Administrator.

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, The Freshman.

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.

Harold Lloyd 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, California

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 Hospital.

1950 vintage photo (7"x9") Newly made Shriners Roy Rogers, Potentate Harold Lloyd, Red Skelton, and Dick Powell

Harold Lloyd by artist Ari Roussimoff. (detail of painting "Hollywood Eternal").

Copyright 2010 Ari Roussimoff. all rights Reserved

 

 

 

         

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