Clock: noun – An instrument other than a watch for measuring or indicating time, especially a mechanical or electronic device having a numbered dial and moving hands or a digital display.
Clocks make great gifts. They come in almost every imaginable size and style, represent a huge number of hobbies and interests, are available in prices to suit every budget and, as an extra bonus, are even useful.
I love it on those rare occasions when I find a gift that is so perfect for someone, it might as well have their name on it. That happened to me well over twenty years ago when I saw a timepiece in the window of a little clock shop that instantly brought my dad to mind. The clock had a figure of silent film star Harold Lloyd hanging from the minute hand, recreating the real Lloyd’s role in the 1923 silent film classic Safety Last!, a film my dad loved.
I ventured into the shop. I remember it as a tiny place, absolutely stuffed full of working clocks of all sizes and styles tick, tick, ticking away. I didn’t see a sales counter anywhere, but suddenly the owner materialized, somewhat startlingly, from behind a wall of clocks and inquired if he could help me. (The shop would have been a perfect mystery movie set.)
I asked how much the Harold Lloyd clock in the window was and I recall that the owner was impressed by my knowledge of Lloyd, as most people thought the clock figure was the better known actor Buster Keaton. The clock cost more than I could afford then, but from the moment I laid eyes on it I knew I was going to get it for dad, so my sister and I shared the cost and gave it as a gift from both of us. It was money well spent, because all these years later, Harold is still hanging on and circling the clock face every hour.
I wonder how many times dad had to explain the significance of the clock to visitors? I suspect it was often, because although the still shots of Lloyd hanging from the clock twelve stories above the city streets are some of the best known photos from silent films, not many people have seen the movie. It stars Harold as The Boy who promises The Girl (Mildred Davis, Lloyd’s real-life wife) that he will go to the city, make good and send for her. Naturally, things don’t go as well as he would have liked.
The high point, literally, of the film is when Harold climbs twelve stories up the side of a building and, after a series of misadventures, ends up dangling precariously from the detached face of a clock. There is some disagreement as to whether Lloyd actually climbed that high himself but film critic Roger Ebert notes: “Having seen a high-resolution 35mm print in which I am clearly looking at Harold Lloyd much of the time, I am prepared to believe that certain shots may have been doubled, but that in others the star himself was in mortal danger.”
For everyone’s enjoyment, but especially for those who have seen the clock and wondered about the film, here is a clip of Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!