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Safety Last!

(silent 1923 b 73')

En: 7 Ed: 6

A young man leaves his girl to go to the big city but has difficulty making enough money to marry her. When she comes to visit, he pretends to be a big shot and gets his boss’s approval for a daring publicity stunt.

         The Boy (Harold Lloyd) is leaving Great Bend and says goodbye to his mother and the Girl (Mildred Davis). He gets on a wagon by mistake and runs to catch the train.

         A few months later the Boy comes into a room and finds the Pal (Bill Strother) darning a sock. He shows the Pal a lavalier he bought, and the Pal asks what good it is without a chain. The Boy says he will get the chain when he has the money. The Pal notices the phonograph is gone, and the Boy shows him the pawn ticket for it. The Boy wants his girl to believe he is successful. The Pal shows him a note demanding the rent. The landlady knocks and comes in, but they hide in coats on hooks.

         The Girl gets a letter from the Boy every day. She receives the gift and reads the letter explaining that he is doing well and hopes to send for her soon.

         The Boy is up early and is writing. He gets in a city towel truck and is locked in and goes for a ride. When he gets out, he tells the driver he may lose his job. He tries to get on a streetcar; but it is overflowing, and he can barely hang on. He falls off and runs to a car with a man who gets a parking ticket. The man makes a U-turn, and the Boy gets out. He sees an ambulance and lays down in the street. They pick him up and put him in the ambulance. He watches where they are going as the attendant takes his vital signs. He asks them to stop at the next corner and gets out.

         The Boy returns to work and fears he may be fired. He picks up a stool and is carried in and adjusts the clock. The Floorwalker (Westcott Clarke) sees him crawling on all fours. The Boy goes behind a counter and begins showing cloth to customers.

         On Saturday they get paid and a half day off. The Floorwalker sees him pull a woman’s sash, and the Boy rips his coat. The bell rings, and a customer asks to see more cloth until 1:45. Then she chooses the first one he showed her, and he pulls it out from under the others. She says she only wants a sample, and he cuts her a small piece. He puts the cloth back on the shelf and hides from the returning woman. He goes out and is greeted by the policeman. The Pal has been waiting for him, and the Boy says he can get away with anything with this policeman. Another policeman comes by, and he has the Pal push him over the Boy. The policeman chases the Pal, who climbs up the side of a building. The Boy watches them and pulls flowers off a man’s bouquet. The Pal climbs on to the roof, and the policeman warns him. The Pal comes down and tells the Boy he could climb higher buildings. Women dust off the policeman.

         The Boy sees he can get lunch for 50 cents, but then he notices the lavaliere chain is half off today only. He goes in and sees the price is $15.50. He takes out his $15 pay for six days and five dimes. As he pays the dimes he imagines his lunch disappearing. He goes out and tightens his belt.

         The Girl receives the chain at home, and her mother asks if it is dangerous for a young man to be in the city with so much money. She suggests the Girl go to him right away, and she says she will surprise him.

         The Boy is harried by numerous women customers who pull off his coat. A woman is knocked down, and he counts her out. He knocks off a fox fur and hands the woman a cat. Another woman pokes him with an umbrella. The Floorwalker complains he is not wearing his coat and tells the general manager. The Boy puts on his coat and combs his hair.

         The Girl arrives in the wonderful city. The Boy sees her, and they kiss. She says they are proud of him and his position. An employee shows him a drawing of Stubbs, and he okays it. The Boy gives orders to the other sales clerks to impress the Girl. He takes her next door for a soda, but she sees him selling at the counter. He pretends to be instructing the others. The Boy is given a complaint card telling him to see the general manager, and he pretends that a European buyer wants his advice. He asks her to wait and goes into the office. The General Manager reprimands him for working in his shirtsleeves and warns him next time he will be fired. The Girl sees him coming out of the office and thinks he is the general manager. She asks to see his office, but he leads her away. He sees the general manager leave and then takes her in. She examines the papers on the desk, and he presses a button, causing a young man to appear. The Boy tosses a dollar in the waste basket and tells him to empty it. The Girl wants to ring a button, but he stops her. Outside the boy tries to find the dollar among the trash. Stubbs comes in, and the Boy hides behind a paper and gives him orders. Stubbs goes out. The Boy sits on the buttons, and six people come into the office. The Boy pretends to leave with them and comes back. Then he sees the general manager returning and pretends that she has fainted. The general manager goes out, and the Boy tries to get her to leave. The general manager brings a glass of water, and the Boy leaves with her. She is glad that he has made money for their little home. She says she left her purse in his office and asks him to get it. He is afraid to knock on the door and pushes it open. He overhears the general manager saying that he would give a thousand dollars for a good idea that would bring customers into the store. He says they need more publicity. The Boy thinks of his Pal climbing the building. He goes in and says he could draw thousands of people to their store. The two men decide to give him a chance.

The Boy is excited and calls the Pal and asks him to climb the Bolton Building for $500. He picks up a lady’s handkerchief, and she tells him to drive her car home. The Boy tells the Girl they will be married tomorrow. He takes her to the lady’s car and tells the driver to take her to a hotel.

         On the lucky day a press agent has flooded the city with newspaper stories about the daredevil climbing the skyscraper. A crowd gathers at the Bolton Building. The Boy and the Pal see the same policeman who chased him, and the Boy tells him to hide. The Boy gets the policeman to enter a tool house, but he follows him back. The Boy disappears in the street by holding on to a car. The policeman returns to the building and is distracted by a drunk man. The Boy writes “Kick Me” in reverse with chalk on the wall and pushes the policeman against it. The drunk sees the sign on his back and kicks him. The Boy leans against the wall and is kicked by a youngster. The Pal hides behind the Boy. The Pal suggests that the Boy climb to the second floor, and then he will put on his coat and hat and go the rest of the way. The Boy tells the publicity agent he is ready. He starts climbing up the building, grabs an awning and falls to the ground. He climbs up again. The policeman sees the Pal and chases him upstairs. The Boy makes it to the second floor and sees the Pal in the window. The policeman arrives, and the Pal tells the Boy to climb up one more floor. The Boy carefully proceeds. A boy drops crumbs, and a pigeon lands on his shoulder and head. The Boy makes it to the third floor, and women at the window applaud. The Pal is not able to get through but points to the Boy to go higher. The policeman sees the Pal and chases him up the stairs. A net falls on the Boy, and he is entangled. He gets it off, and the net falls on the drunk. At the next window the Pal says he has to keep going until he can ditch the cop. The Boy gets scared but sees women in the window again. An old lady warns him he could fall and get hurt. People are watching from various windows. Two workmen push a board out, but the Boy survives it. He tells the Pal he must be there, or he will be through.

         The Girl arrives and sees him climbing. The Boy makes it to a window next to a large clock. The Pal opens the window, forcing the boy to grab the hand of the clock. The Pal has a rope, but the policeman arrives before he can tie it down. The Boy grabs the rope and falls, but the Pal grabs the rope in time. He and the policeman pull the Boy up. A man at a window laughs and says that was a good one. The Boy lets go of the rope and struggles to make it to the next window above the clock. The cop chases the Pal, who asks the Boy to make the next floor faster. The Boy opens a window, but a dog chases him out on a flagpole, which breaks. He falls into the broken clock and gets his foot tangled in the wires. The Girl is upset and rushes into the building. The Boy makes it to the next ledge, but a mouse crawls up his pants. He opens the window and sees a man with a gun getting his picture taken. He scrambles up to the next ledge, which is the roof. The Girl sees an anemometer above his head and tries to warn him. His head is hit, and he becomes dizzy on the ledge. His foot is entangled in a rope. He falls and swings back and forth. Finally he makes it to the roof and kisses the Girl. He sees the Pal on the ground being chased by the cop. The Boy walks off happily with his Girl.

         This farce makes fun of the plight a young man faces in a low-paying job when he wants to get married. His desperation is reflected in his dangerous climbing of a skyscraper which symbolizes the precariousness of the great wealth in the big city.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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