Silent Visions : Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd

Silent Visions : Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd
John Bengtson
May 2011

Immensely popular and prolific, Harold Lloyd sold more movie tickets during the Golden Age of Comedy than any other comedian. From Coney Island to Catalina Island, and from Brooklyn to Beverly Hills, Lloyd’s movies captured visions of silent-era America unequaled on the silver screen.

A stunning work of cinematic archeology, Silent Visions describes the historical settings found in such Lloyd classics as Safety Last!, Girl Shy, and Speedy, and matches them with archival photographs, vintage maps, and scores of then-and-now comparison photographs, illuminating both Lloyd’s comedic genius, and the burgeoning Los Angeles and Manhattan landscapes preserved in the background of his films.

The book represents John Bengtson’s completion of his trilogy of works focusing on the three great geniuses of silent film comedy (Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd) in what Oscar-winning historian Kevin Brownlow calls “a new art form.”

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Author Information
John Bengtson

is a business lawyer and film historian who discovered the magic of silent comedy at an early age. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin,Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton, and Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. Bengtson has presented his work on Buster Keaton as keynote speaker at events hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. He is a featured columnist of the Keaton Chroniclenewsletter, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his two daughters.


“First Keaton, then Chaplin, and now Harold Lloyd. There is no end to the magic John Bengtson creates when he investigates the real locations of celebrated movie sequences. Simply amazing.”
—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“With his usual unerring precision, John Bengtson shows us how Harold Lloyd turned New York and Los Angeles into his very own romper room. Silent Visions is a wonderful amalgam of film history and urban history. Bengtson’s detective work in tracking down these movie locations has the same exhilaration and fanatic attention to detail as Lloyd’s classic comedies.”
—Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“John Bengtson has done it again: part detective, part historian, this dedicated silent-film enthusiast has opened a window to the past for all of us. After revisiting the wonderful Harold Lloyd comedies shot on location, this volume makes me want to embark on a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles (not to mention Manhattan and Coney Island).”
—Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight

“Harold Lloyd fans will agree that this is a most remarkable book. Even after all this time, I have a new appreciation as to how these films were made. My grandfather would be so pleased.”
—Suzanne Lloyd

“Drawing from early 20th century maps, as well as archival photographs and film stills, Bengtson develops a comprehensive view of 1920s Los Angeles and New York. This book will delight fans of early 20th century architecture and film.”
Publishers Weekly

“Through meticulous research using maps, historic photos, and even insurance records, Bengtson seeks out the real-life places where the bespectacled funnyman enacted his often death-defying pratfalls. You’ll be entertained.”Â
—Chris Nichols, Los Angeles Magazine

“Plenty of baseball lore, silent-film slapstick, and NYC nostalgia.”Â
—David Edelstein, New York Magazine

“A photographic feat. Carefully selected frame blow-ups share page space with present-day views of actual locations to reveal the remarkable density and complexity of [Speedy’s] making, as well as a timeline of New York.”Â
—Bruce Bennett, Wall Street Journal

“Matching frame stills, publicity shots, and archival photos with old maps and new pictures of the same locations, Bengtson takes the reader on an archaeological dig of sorts. For Lloyd fans, Bengtson’s book is a must, and for historic architecture and urban design buffs, the book is likewise indispensible. An unusual and commendably obsessive undertaking!”
—Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer