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1930s & Earlier / Harold Lloyd Bomb Mishap - 1919
On August 24, 1919, ascending silent movie comedian Harold Lloyd arrived at Pathe Studios to begin a publicity campaign to celebrate his new contract. He was posing for some publicity stills--unaware that such a seemingly benign activity was about to dramatically change his life. In one posed shot Lloyd was supposed to light a prop bomb with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. (The image supposedly played up Lloyd's typical devil-may-care attitude in his films.) Unbeknownst to anyone in the studio, some actual bombs from another film--which had been rejected for being too dangerous--had been placed in a box among some dummy bombs. The photographer innocently handed Lloyd one of the live bombs. When the fuse was lit, Lloyd sensed something was mildly wrong because it produced excessive smoke that would surely ruin any photographs. Just as Lloyd discarded the bomb on a nearby table, it exploded. Miraculously Lloyd was not killed as the blast ripped open a a 16-foot swath in the room. Nevertheless, Lloyd suffered numerous facial injuries and temporarily lost his eyesight. Only when extreme pain set in did Lloyd become aware that his right thumb and forefinger had been severed. He spent six weeks in a hospital recovering. He was overwhelmed by the number of fan letters which he said helped him overcome his depression about the accident. In all his subsequent films Lloyd wore a special prosthetic device concealed within a white glove to make it look like his right hand was absolutely normal. Lloyd did not want to dwell on his injury as he did not want moviegoers to watch his films due to pity. Lloyd continued to engage in very active physical comedy routines despite the handicap. His famous building-climbing scene in Safety Last occurred after the bomb accident--making it all the more incredible. Some years ago I posted Lloyd's 1953 mystery guest appearance on What's My Line. His deformed hand can clearly be seen when he shakes hands with the WML panelists as he departs.