4th-graders celebrate silent film star

A group of Midwest tweens has gone gaga for one of Hollywood’s most unlikely leading men.

And then some.

The fourth-graders from Heartland Community School in Henderson, Neb., first took notice of 1920s silent film star Harold Lloyd –best known for the iconic image of him hanging from a clock in “Safety Last” — after reading Brian Selznick‘s bestseller “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

“We started looking at all the pictures in the book,” says teacher Suzanne Ratzlaff, “and when we saw the Harold Lloyd picture, oh man, there it went.”

On Lloyd’s 116th birthday celebration, 16 of the students went dressed as Lloyd to his birthplace in Burchard, Neb., wearing glasses and a straw hat. The class even convinced a local theater to screen two of Lloyd’s films.

The project went coastal when each student wrote letters to Selznick, Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, and even to Johnny Depp, asking if he would make a biopic of the famed comedian.

Selznick responded by sending the kids a signed first edition of “Cabret,” along with a second copy of the book with the iconic photo of Lloyd on the cover.

“I feel thrilled that ‘Hugo’ might have had a little help in getting kids to enjoy these old movies,” Selznick tells Variety. He takes pride knowing his book has inspired such creative runoff, saying, “I kind of like that that spark gets passed on, and it keeps getting passed on.”

Suzanne Lloyd credits her grandfather’s charm and energy as the films’ main draw but insists their staying power lies in the connection with the audience.

“He’s a friendly chap that you want to hang out with,” she says. “Kids adore that.”

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