Wednesday, 22nd November, am

052.V: Gill & Brownlow: Harold Lloyd, The Third Genius, Part II, 1989, b & w/colour, full screen, mono, from Channel 4 broadcast, February 1995, 56′01″

A nice video-cling-on, from the days when you could set the machine to capture a movie and later find you had also hauled in an extra worth watching. This was the concluding part of a two-hour study of comedian Harold Lloyd. His dare-devil stunts, such as clinging to the hands of clocktowers came to be iconic: I’ve just noticed that this very image adorns the spine of the 1995 Variety Movie Guide. Driven and perfectionist, Lloyd survived the introduction of sound and lived to take a personal interest in the revival of his films in the sixties. He lived in the grandest Hollywood manner in a Villa d’Este-style mansion. There were plenty of clips from the movies, warts-and-all memories from colleagues and relatives and many incidental insights into the whole business of comedy.

There were precious few laughs, however and maybe that was why he faded from the screen. The owlish star always played characters on the make, a persona which lost its popular appeal in the hungry thirties, according to the commentary, delivered by Lindsay Anderson. Ingenious and distinctive though they appear, I was left with little desire to seek out or sit through the movies themselves. Possibly the earlier part of the career would have inspired more enthusiasm. It has to be said that Anderson’s voice-over sets a scholarly tone to the project and sticks to it without a glimmer of humour. It stands, however, as a valuable master-class, a pleasing thing to rediscover lurking uncatalogued on an old tape and a reminder of the days - not so very long ago - when Channel Four was worth watching in the wee small hours.