Sunday Leisure

*Kitsch Dept: I don’t know about you, but on sunny weekends like this one I’m pretty glad I live in a time and place where books with titles like Harold Lloyd’s Hollywood Nudes in 3-D! actually, seriously exist. Yes, the title might sound like a joke from a Michael Kupperman comic, but it’s all true - subsequent to his retirement from the screen, legendary silent comedian Harold Lloyd opted to devote his incredible riches to a number of pastimes, nudie pin-up style photography among them. And Lloyd was nothing if not a technophile and a near-obsessive, even after he finished handing from clocks in front of the cameras: he utilized plenty of brand-new technology, including 3-D, traveled to remote and scenic spots on the globe, and shot countless models from the late ‘40s well into the ‘60s.

The book, written and compiled by Lloyd’s own granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, collects 160 pages worth of material, complete with 3-D glasses (in the shape of Lloyd’s famous silent film specs). It’s been said online that the reproduction of the 3-D shots isn’t great, but only about half of the included material (maybe less) are actually in 3-D. Lots of topless shots of nameless girls looking to break into Hollywood, though there’s also the obligatory Bettie Page appearance, non-nude shots of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield, and a few sequences involving future names of note, like a young Tura Satana of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! infamy. Lloyd’s probably not the most striking photographic mind of the era -- one never quite loses the feeling that this is but the extraordinarily extensive hobby of a very wealthy man with all the time in the world -- but the former Lonesome Luke does have a reasonably adept eye for color, and his more ambitious works have a certain campy flair, like a whole series of a topless ballerina in white face paint being pursued by the devil, or shots of a jungle woman bloodily clashing with a terribly scary tiger rug. The inner comedian can never be hidden.

Much more about Shutterbug Lloyd can be found here. I found the book for under $10 on the discount rack at Barnes & Noble; the cover price is $24.95. It’s something I feel awfully pleased to own, being one of the odder examples of ‘silent comedians doing things after the silent era,’ a topic I’m never not interested in.

The book also brings up a comics-related point, just so this post can sort of have something to do with funnybooks. It’s been said, in a number of places, that Harold Lloyd’s famous glasses were the inspiration for Clark Kent’s much-maligned secret identity disguise, the sort of thing that readers today have to excuse as part of the suspension of disbelief inherent to the exploits of characters created before the sophistication of realism was a top priority in superhero comics. Artists often find it difficult to get the secret identity ‘right’ on the page. And yet, as this book notes, Lloyd himself apparently had a running bet with Dougas Fairbanks and John Barrymore that if anyone ever recognized him on the street without his famed glasses, he’d buy them dinner. Apparently, he never lost. And indeed, the shots of Lloyd in here sans specs really do look like images of a totally different man, and he isn’t even altering his posture in Quitelyesque fashion. Maybe some people can just pull it off…