Silent films of Harold Lloyd mark annual gala

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will accompany the comic genius of silent film star Harold Lloyd in the 17th Annual Silent Film Gala, with six-time Honorary Chair Dustin Hoffman, June 3 at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

True to its tradition, the exquisite sound of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will complement the films: a rare showing of Harold Lloyd’s brilliant one-reel comedy, “Ask Father” (1919), and the classic comedy, “Safety Last,” which features one of the most iconic images in silent film: Lloyd, in his trademark straw hat and round black-rimmed glasses, dangling precipitously from the hands of a clock tower several stories above a Los Angeles street.

A freshly minted copy of “Ask Father,” courtesy of UCLA’s Film & Television Archive, is presented with the help of Sony Studios and the support of Suzanne Lloyd, Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter.

“This will be the fourth time I’ve shown a movie for the gala,” Lloyd said in a recent interview. “It’s thrilling to see it performed with a great orchestra.”

A former resident of Malibu, she remembers her grandfather built a house on Pacific Coast Highway during the ’20s as a place to get out of town.

“It is gratifying that there’s still so much interest in his work. A lot of credit goes to Turner Classic Movies and UCLA archives for their restoration work on his films,” she said.


“The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection,” a top-rated four-disc DVD set of 28 full features and mini documentaries, was distributed last year by New Line.

“I just came back from the Tribeca Film Festival, where we played his film. We had children from ages three and up. Three quarters had never seen a Harold Lloyd film. I told them you’re going to see Harry Potter’s big brother, and they got very excited.”

Suzanne Lloyd has also donated four limited edition Marilyn Monroe prints for a silent auction after the gala showing.

“My grandfather took publicity shots of Monroe in the ’50s for ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ at his home in Beverly Hills,” she said. “Then, with famed photographer Phillipe Halsman for the cover of Life Magazine, Harold went with them to her house because they were good friends. I thought it would be fun for people to see that Harold was more than a comic. He was a brilliant photographer and a philanthropist. He was chairman of the board for Children’s Hospital.”

This year’s event will mark the world premiere of composer Timothy Brock’s new score for “Ask Father,” commissioned by and dedicated to The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Brock also will conduct Carl Davis’ original score for “Safety Last.”

“Ask Father” originally was the first film score Brock had written for a Harold Lloyd comedy.

“This charming short contains a very simple premise, that of Harold catastrophically attempting, over the course of 13 minutes, to capture more than three seconds of undivided attention from the businessman father of his intended bride-to-be, in order to ask for his blessing,” Brock said in an interview with The Malibu Times.

“For me, these series of 11 tries and failures, musically speaking, resemble a dance band play-list: one number after another and in rapid-fire succession,” he said. “Each of Harold’s clever attempts is different in nature and approach, and is musically accompanied accordingly. The challenge lies in simply keeping up with him. The score, despite being a short film, is nearly 800 measures long, and not a single measure of adagio among them.”

The score utilizes period instrumentation and orchestration technique that Brock said he’s come to know very well over the past 20 years of silent film restoration of original scores.

“Four saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, percussion, piano, banjo and a handful of strings do the job nicely,” Brock said. “With all the new roads we composers (and listeners) have traveled over the past century, it’s refreshing to, once in a while, tie my own hands and try to think what Mr. Lloyd would have wanted, while keeping my voice alive and well.”

Former Turner Entertainment Co. president Roger Mayer, chairman of the National Film Preservation Foundation and the 2005 recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards, will serve as gala co-chair. An expert film preservationist, Mayer has been integral to the success of every Silent Film Gala since 1994.

Co-chairing is longtime LACO board member Hanna Kennedy.

“The Silent Film Gala demonstrates our orchestra’s wonderful versatility,” said Kennedy, who pioneered the Silent Film Gala in 1990. “Great music, like great film, is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated. And what better way than to combine the gifts of a world-renowned orchestra with the talents of film masters like Harold Lloyd!”

The gala’s supporters have included the biggest names in the entertainment industry: Pierce Brosnan, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Norman Jewison, Eddie Murphy, Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese and Barbra Streisand, among others. This will be Dustin Hoffman’s sixth year as Honorary Chair for the event.

Following the film, the Chamber Orchestra will host a VIP party under the stars on the Ahmanson Terrace outside Royce Hall, with a buffet supper catered by Peggy Dark’s Kitchen for Exploring Foods.

The Silent Film Gala takes place June 3, at 8 p.m. UCLA Royce Hall, Westwood. General admission is $30, priority seating is $75, and gala tickets, which include a post-film supper, are $275. Tickets can be obtained by calling 213.622.7001, ext. 275.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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