Plot: Harold (Harold Lloyd) wants nothing more than to marry his sweetheart Mildred (Mildred Davis), but he simply can’t afford to give her the ring, wedding, and lifestyle he knows she deserves. So he plans to venture into the big city, land a good job, and start to stockpile his earnings, until he has enough to pop the question. He does indeed land a job, working at a department store, but he makes little money and is often the brunt of his supervisor’s ire. As he isn’t even pulling in enough cash to cover his expenses, he knows he needs to make a change and soon, or he might not ever be able to marry his dream girl. Of course, he doesn’t let her know about his struggles, as he wants her to think he had found great success. In order to live up to his claims and finally marry her, Harold knows he needs to win a cash prize offered to anyone who can boost the store’s customer traffic. But can he manage to collect the sizable sum, or will his desperation lead to some unintended consequences?
Entertainment Value: The visual of Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a giant clock is quite iconic and with good reason, as Safety Last! is a timeless classic that still holds up. The famous climb to the clock is still an effective piece of cinema, with some remarkable camera work that makes you feel like you’re up on the building right beside our hero. While that scene is the most memorable segment of Safety Last!, the movie isn’t just a one hit wonder. The movie has consistent bursts of hilarious moments, with some of the best comedic timing you’ll likely ever witness, as some of the scenes require split second precision and that is achieved. The humor is slapstick in nature in most cases, with some excellent visual gags throughout, which is of course crucial, given that this is a silent film. I know that silent films tend to turn off some viewers, but Safety Last! is able to provide a rich comedic experience even with no dialogue. In truth, it is so masterful that you’ll forget the movie is a silent one, you’ll just be drawn into the characters and humor that much. A stylish, beautiful movie that never fails to entertain, Safety Last! should be in any comedy fan’s collection.
At the center of Safety Last! is Harold Lloyd, a master of comedy who belongs right beside luminaries like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. He is able to convey this sense of always being out of his element, even in the most routine instances, that just his presence is often humorous. The hustle and bustle of the department store allows ample opportunities for Lloyd to be overwhelmed and in over his head, which he revels in and provides numerous hilarious moments. That kind of awkwardness helped him carve out his own place in the comedy annals and his approach still works, he is a consistent source of effective humor. Mildred Davis is here as his love interest, Bill Strother plays his limber friend, and Westcott Clarke plays the floorwalker who is in almost constant conflict with Harold. The scenes between Clarke and Lloyd are simply magical, with great chemistry and some serious laughs. In short, we have great performances, superb technical execution, and a ton of effective humor, pretty much all you could ask of a movie like this and then some.