TCM clocking up pix

Net gets rights to timeless classic laffers

NEW YORK — Turner Classic Movies has picked up the exclusive rights to 19 movies made by Harold Lloyd, the bespectacled Everyman whose popular comedies made him one of the reigning triumvirate of the silent era with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

“I want to get Harold Lloyd’s movies back in circulation,” said Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of the comedian, who died in 1971. Lloyd engineered the TCM deal in her role as administrator of the Lloyd estate. TCM will pay in the mid-six figures for a three-year exclusive license term to the 19 titles.

Spur for redos?

Lloyd said she hopes the TCM cablecasts will create enough interest in the movies that one of the studios will employ her to produce new versions of the pictures. “We’d have to update the plots,” she said, “but many of the gags and setups are still funny.”

The UCLA Film and TV Archive, headed by Robert Gitt and Jerry Goldin, has restored the negatives for the TCM run, Lloyd said, and the silent movies will get fresh music scores, courtesy of composers like Carl Davis and Robert Israel.

Three in sound

The only three sound movies in the package are “First Feet” (1930), “Movie Crazy” (1932) and “Cat’s Paw” (1934). The Lloyd estate doesn’t own the rights to three of the comedian’s later movies that occasionally show up on broadcast and cable TV: “The Milky Way” (1936), directed by Leo McCarey; “Professor Beware” (1938), directed by Elliott Nugent; and “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947; also known as “Mad Wednesday”), directed by Preston Sturges.

Lloyd’s movies and his 44 one-reelers are not nearly as well known as Chaplin’s or Keaton’s because “my grandfather hated to see his movies cut up for commercials on television — he was a stickler for that kind of thing,” Lloyd said. “So even though he hurt himself financially, he wouldn’t sell his movies to TV.”

All 19 movies become available to TCM in spring 2003. But five of them will appear in a special Harold Lloyd Festival on May 28 in conjunction with “Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian,” the illustrated biography co-authored by Jeffrey Vance and Suzanne Lloyd, which Harry Abrams has just published. The five on May 28 are “Safety Last” (1923), “Girl Shy” (1924), “Hot Water” (1924), “The Kid Brother” (1927) and “Speedy” (1928).