THE HAROLD LLOYD ENCYCLOPEDIA
by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Harold Lloyd is most likely the least well known of the “Big Three” silent comedians, talking a back seat to Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton despite being featured in one of the most iconic images of the silent era, a man dangling from the hands of a clock on the side of a building, taken from his film Safety Last. Annette D’Agostino Lloyd’s book The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia won’t do much to change public awareness of Lloyd, but it provides a wonderful resource for Lloyd and silent film fans who are already familiar with his work and want to understand it better.
D’Agostino Lloyd, who is no relation to Harold, has compiled this encyclopedic look at Harold Lloyd’s life and career, with entries on his various films as well as individuals, places, events, and objects which are important to understanding Lloyd’s life and work. She opens the book with a short prologue, proving a good explanation of who Lloyd is and why his role in the development of film comedy, and therefore the following 400 pages, are important.
As an encyclopedia, the alphabetical entries are designed to be dipped into at random or for research purposes rather than read straight through. D’Agostino Lloyd offers a variety of types of entries. There are biographical entries detailing Lloyd, his family, co-stars, and collaborators, there are entries detailing his films, entries for various things that helped create Lloyd and his persona, such as his ubiquitous glasses, and entries on his hobbies, such as stereographic photography.
D’Agostino Lloyd has entries for each of Lloyd’s films. These entries discuss the plot of the film the stars (and their salaries, when known), production notes, and generally pick out a scene which is the highlight of the film in D’Agostino Lloyd’s opinion. In the cases when the film is lost, such as many of the early Lonesome Luke films, D’Agostino Lloyd notes that as well.
The encyclopedia presents as well rounded a view of Lloyd’s and his career as a biography, however since there is no narrative thread, the reader needs to dig a little deeper to gain a complete image of Lloyd. The fact that there is no biographical entry for Lloyd himself, which may seem superfluous since the entire book is about Lloyd, means there is no real entry point for information on the man himself. On the other hand, used in conjunction with a viewing of Lloyd’s films, the book offers a plethora of background information, giving added depth to what can be seen on the screen.
The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia is not an introduction to the silent film comedian, but it is an excellent reference work and should serve as a model for future works. It provides those interested in Lloyd, either simply because they’ve seen one of his films or due to a deeper interest in silent film comedies, with an interesting and informative book that invites the reader to dip into it and return multiple times for more details about Lloyd’s oeuvre.
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