How Harold Lloyd Filmed Safety Last!

108 - T Lloyd Safety Last Tally's Broadway Theatre below 2 crpThe image of Harold Lloyd hanging desperately from the hands of a skyscraper clock during Safety Last! (1923) is one of the greatest icons in all of film history.  Using maps, aerial views, and vintage photographs, my book Silent Visions shows how Harold filmed each of his five stunt-climbing comedies within the downtown Los Angeles Historic Core, while documenting the burgeoning urban skyline as it appears in the background of his films. I had the honor of introducing Safety Last! in 2016 at the Orpheum Theater as part of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats. Below, from my YouTube Channel, a fully updated video tour, showing Harold’s climb atop 5 buildings in downtown LA, and many other locations.

On the roof of 908 S. Broadway from Safety Last! and the YouTube video clip

The closing scene from Safety Last! (left) was filmed on the roof of 908 S. Broadway, the same building where the clock stunt climbing set was built. The same roof (right), now supporting the steel girder foundation for a large antennae, appears during the Criterion Collection Locations and Effects mini clip.

The slides below from the YouTube video show how the many Safety Last! stunts were created, as well as where Harold filmed near Exposition Park and USC, and many places in Hollywood, including the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley below. You can access HERE a self-guided walking tour of the downtown locations appearing in Safety Last!, Never Weaken, and Feet First. (In all Lloyd employed 17 downtown buildings during his “thrill” comedies – see a PDF list of descriptions here).

HH title card CKL Alley[Note: on the ground, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd filmed scenes from their masterpieces The Kid (1921), Cops (1922) and Safety Last! at the same Hollywood alley you can still visit today. Hollywood Heritage plans to celebrate the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley with a GoFundMe campaign to install signs, a plaque, and even an honorary mural. Cheers to Hollywood Heritage, a California nonprofit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation. If you want to honor a favorite star, or to recognize Hollywood’s origins and hidden history, please consider making a tax-deductible donation, and please share this campaign.]

I encourage you to watch the Safety Last! YouTube, and to check out the many other silent location videos posted about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley on the Silent Locations YouTube Channel.

The multiple Oscar-winning movie Hugo pays tribute to Safety Last!; first by including a clip of the Lloyd movie within the film, and also when the young hero Hugo Cabret finds himself hanging from a train station clock. Hugo (C) 2011 Paramount Pictures

You can check out my other posts about Safety Last! here.

A short segment from the Locations and Effects 2013 documentary with Academy-Award winning effects supervisor Craig Barron and the author filmed for the Criterion Collection release of the Safety Last! Blu-ray appears below.

To see where Harold filmed his amazing comedies, be sure to check out my book Silent Visions

If you need a good laugh, or want to raise your spirits, just listen to Michael Mortilla’s audio-only recording of the audience laughing and squealing with delight while watching Safety Last!  It’s great to play as background music – the swells and squeals of laughter just grow and grow.

Michael Mortilla accompanying Safety Last!

HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.


Hollywood Heritage plans to celebrate the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley and has launched a GoFundMe campaign to install signs, a plaque, and even an honorary mural. Cheers to Hollywood Heritage, a California nonprofit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation. If you want to honor a favorite star, or to recognize Hollywood’s origins and hidden history, please consider making a tax-deductible donation, and please share this campaign. You may also show support by posting a review on Google Maps. Prototype alley sign design by noted Dutch graphic artist – Piet Schreuders. Download a 4-page brochure HERE. This video further explains the alley – if you can, please share with others and leave a thumbs up.

The site of the clock set, built on the roof of 908 S. Broadway on Google Maps.

This entry was posted in Harold Lloyd, Lloyd Thrill Pictures, Los Angeles Historic Core, Safety Last! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to How Harold Lloyd Filmed Safety Last!

  1. Pingback: How Harold Lloyd Filmed Safety Last! | The Bioscope |

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  7. Jonathan says:

    There are several high and very wide shots in the climbing sequence of Safety Last where Harold, or a stunt performer is seemingly free solo climbing the side of the building; no perspective or facade as described above. Did he do it, or did someone like Harry Gardiner double for him?


    • Hi Jonathan – as I explain in my book, Bill Strother climbed the International Bank Building (1907-1954) formerly at Temple and Spring for the wide shots. The building did not have a clock, so the prop department had to put up a phoney clock on the real building to match shots with Harold on the clock set.


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    • Grace Rellie says:

      Just out of curiosity, did you get a chance to discuss this with Suzanne Llyod? I met her and her son a few years back in Chicago. She knew a lot about her grandfather and explained some of the details into the making of this movie.

      She flew in to Chicago for the first showing of Safety Last since it was put into the vault by Harold. At that time she said she was putting it back in after we saw it at the Gateway Theater (also known as the Copernicus Center.) Later she allowed it to be seen on Turner Classic Movies (TCM.) I’m glad she decided to finally release it to DVD so a few new generations could enjoy it.

      If you weren’t there that night let me tell you we had a ball. The theater was packed and with one gag rolling directly into the next there was no time to catch a breath. We laughed till our sides hurt and we kept laughing. It really was a night to remember. After all, how often do you have a full crowd in a theater all react the same way at the same time?

      Thanks for posting. I found your slides very interesting.


  9. Hi Grace – I’ve met Sue several times – we helped introduce Safety Last in downtown Los Angeles in 2011. One of the most gratifying compliments I have ever received was when she told me how pleased Harold would have been with this research, and that how even she has gained new insight and appreciation for his work.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. John Brodston says:

    I have found all of this to be quite interesting. Loyd had a great talent that continues to fascinate and entertain. I have often taken pictures of the old buildings in downtown LA without realizing that some of them were used in Lloyd’s great films. I will check out the addresses the next time I am in Los Angeles. I have tried to check out the old Omaha and San Diego newspaper archives to see if his image had appeared in any of the old theater company ads when he was with these troupes as a youngster but the images were too grainy.


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  15. Pingback: Like many films, Safety Last! is better if you don't think too hard about it - Luddite Robot

  16. William b. Grice says:

    Thank you for this page……enjoyed very much……when I watch old movies I wonder where it was shot and what the area looks like present day…..this answers some of those thoughts.


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  21. Terry Tkachuk says:

    Thanks for your great work. An intelligent & heartwarming account of a timeless (excuse the pun!) classic.

    There’s a slight hint/homage to the film in Jackie Chan’s ‘Shanghai Knights’ esp the very last shot in the film.


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  25. Lorian Bartle says:

    I am excited that this film is finally entering the public domain. Excellent writeup on a very famous scene and very well sourced; thank you for posting.

    Lorian Bartle


  26. John Gonzalez says:

    What is the site where I can view the photo that show Castelar elementary school near Chinatown


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  31. After enjoying your splendid visuals I was a bit disapointed not finding ‘908 S. Broadway’ in the New Google Earth Community at at Nor in the remnants of the old Google Earth Commuity, the blue i-icons in the Galery layer in tehj Layers pane of ‘Google Earth for desktop’
    While awaiting support for ‘PhotoOverlay’ in ‘Google Earth for web’ the clever social medium for your awesome visuals would be the ‘history illustrated’ thread.

    Awesome blog, I like it!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Wistful Nostalgic says:

    I first saw this film as a child in the 1970s on TV. My brothers and I loved Harold! Just watched it again on YouTube for the first time since all those years ago. Harold was immensely brave and talented! The silent film actors really pushed the boundaries to create these classic films.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Watching Safety Last! in a crowded theater remains a unique experience. Even today modern audiences, long bored by extravagant computer generated effects, scream and gasp. They can’t help it, they know what they’re seeing is real.


  33. Pingback: Safety Last! (1923) | Watching Silent Films

  34. Larry Moss says:

    I’m pretty sure the only time I saw Safety Last was some 45 years ago when I was in college. I just watched it again by myself on HBO Max and was still on the edge of my seat with an elevated pulse during the climb sequence. Just amazing. After watching I googled something like “safety last harold lloyd how” and easily came to this site. Thanks so much for the great information and presentation!

    Liked by 1 person

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  36. Tom Hillman says:

    A great blog amazed by reading it.


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