US Release Date: 07-11-1920
Directed by: Hal Roach
- Harold Lloyd, as
- The Boy
- Roy Brooks, as
- His Friend
- Mildred Davis, as
- The Girl
- Wallace Howe as
- Her Father
Harold Lloyd realizing he is high and dizzy.
High and Dizzy was Harold Lloyd’s first movie to use the stunt of him being on a window ledge high up in the air. He plays a doctor who has just opened his practice. He has no patients so when a man and his daughter show up he disguises himself as several different patients entering and leaving his office. The man tells Harold that his daughter walks in her sleep. This set up is necessary for the plot.
Next Harold gets drunk with a friend. He spends the majority of this two-reeler staggering around intoxicated. They have a couple of close calls with a policeman and a sidewalk elevator before arriving at a hotel. Harold wreaks havoc on the lobby before making it upstairs to a room. Of course this turns out to be the same hotel the sleepwalking girl and her father are staying at.
The girl takes a nap and winds up sleepwalking out on the window ledge in high heels. Apparently she sleeps with her shoes on. She goes next door where Harold is still drunk and he then follows her out on the ledge. This movie features the famous close-up of Harold with his hair standing on end when he realizes he is high up on the ledge of the hotel.
Harold Lloyd was an agile acrobat and a very funny man. Although only a few of his many movies feature dare devil stunts like this one, he will be forever remembered for them. High and Dizzy is funny and fast-paced and shows Harold Lloyd at his finest.
Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis in High and Dizzy.
Like the other silent film greats, Harold Lloyd was a prolific filmmaker, starring in short after short and yet unlike Lloyd, Chaplin or Arbuckle, Lloyd is most associated with one image. Even people who don't know much about him, are familiar with that iconic shot of him hanging from the clock face in Safety Last. Or as he would put it himself later on in life, "Doesn't anyone remember my other pictures? I made close to three hundred and only five were thrill pictures." High and Dizzy is one of those five.
There's a reason people remember the thrill pictures above all else. It's not just because they're fun, funny and even a little scary (although in a totally comical way). It's also that they are what is unique about Lloyd's films. Take the first half of High and Dizzy for example. Lloyd gets drunk and harrasses a policeman. Chaplin was famous for playing a drunk in his early shorts and practically every silent short every made, involved harassing a policeman. But how many of them took that drunk out on the ledge of a skyscraper like this one?
It's only when the sleepwalking girl steps out onto the ledge that this short really takes off. Sure, it's cute and amusing before then and Lloyd does a very impressive standing jump onto the counter of the hotel, but we've seen it all before in other shorts. But when Mildred Davis, the future Mrs. Harold Lloyd, steps out onto that ledge, it moves to an entirely new level and continues further still when Lloyd goes out after her.
The resulting scenes out on the ledge are so funny, charming and, yes, thrilling that it's no wonder audiences wanted more. As Lloyd would say, "We made Safety Last because after High and Dizzy everything seemed to be an anti-climax. We just had to do another thrill picture."
Roy Brooks, Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis in High and Dizzy
As Scott alluded to, playing a drunk for a cheap laugh was done by most silent comics at some point. Look at Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916), Buster Keaton in His Wedding Night (1917) or Fatty Arbuckle in Good Night! Nurse? (1918). None of these comic master's performances are as funny as Lloyd is here terrorizing a hotel or attempting to help his inebriated friend.
The friend in question was played by Roy Brooks who came to Hollywood from Tacoma with his best friend Mildred Davis. As Harold Lloyd hired Davis, so too did he hire the openly gay Brooks as his personal assistant/secretary and sometime co-star. The 6' 4" Brooks became good friends with Lloyd and he ended up moving into Lloyd's and Davis's estate, staying in an apartment above the garage for nearly 30 years. He answered Lloyd's fan mail and kept Midred company whenever Harold was away.
As my brothers wrote, the ledge scenes are the best and they have become what we remember Lloyd the most for. What I find most fascinating about them is just how well they were filmed. Look at all of the movies made since that feature someone on a building ledge, from Barbra Streisand in What's Up Doc? (1972) to Sam Worthington in Man on a Ledge (2012) and you will still not find a more realistic looking stunt than what was performed by Davis and Lloyd way back in 1920.
Photos © Copyright Pathe Exchange (1920)