Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What a hokey, impractical idea!

I was completely gobsmacked - though perhaps I shouldn't have been - when I found this tidbit on the Turner Classics site. Along with everything else, Harold Lloyd was a visionary who had a way of piercing the limitations of technology, simply because "no" wasn't in his vocabulary. Even if his view wasn't quite "yes", it always had the spirit of "let's try". He was the perennial boy genius who never stopped tinkering and exploring in every medium he could get his hands on: microscopy, oil painting, stereo sound, and the primitive 3D photography of the era. Speaking of which, his favorite photographic subject was buxom, Jane-Russell-like nude women. Harold always loved his work.

Many fans of Harold Lloyd think of him simply as one of the very talented founding fathers of cinema.  This is true, but Harold was ALSO one of the first proponents of 3D motion pictures!  In 1923 an interviewer from the Los Angeles Times visited Harold on the set of Girl Shy and they discussed Harold’s interest in 3D.  During this interview Harold is quoted as saying “I believe that the man who invents a means of producing a perfect stereo motion picture will have accomplished the greatest achievement since the first motion picture.”  He went on to say “Today, the motion pictures projected on the most perfect screen are lacking in solidity and relief.  If the characters could only be made to stand out as they do in stereopticon pictures, and still retain the action of motion pictures of today, I think the ultimate would be reached by the cinema.”

In his Columbia University interview in 1959 Harold discussed the early attempts at 3D movies.  Many in the industry had given up on the medium, as the results had not been great and 3D was viewed mostly as a passing fad. In the interview Harold says “I think if they’d handled [the transition to] sound as horribly as they did three-dimension, we wouldn’t have sound today.”  After this, he goes on to explain technically why the earlier 3D attempts had not been successful and how the technology would have to advance before the medium would take off.  He was absolutely convinced that once the technological advancements were made, the transition from 2D motion pictures to 3D would be unavoidable and all encompassing.

Harold’s interest in 3D manifested itself in his passion for stereoscopic photography.  From 1947 until his death in 1971, Harold Lloyd shot over 200,000 3D slides some of which featured celebrities of the day, scenic views of the United States and various countries around the world.  He was a member of the Photographic Society of America and served as the Inaugural President of the Hollywood Stereoscopic Society.

The magnificent library of Harold’s 3D photography remains mostly unexposed to the public.  Suzanne Lloyd has published two books containing some of the images, but most of the 200,000+ slides have not been seen by anyone outside of the Lloyd family.  

(From the Turner Classic Movies web site)