‘But anyway I’m still alive. And lots of people can’t say that.’

More on silent-movie star Harold Lloyd: he did all those stunts (including, famously, hanging from the clock face) without the finger and thumb of his right hand. He was already a star when it happened, and the story is bizarre. For one of his movies, he was supposed to light a cigarette from a papier mâch&eacute ‘bomb’ to show his devil-may-care side. Except the bomb turned out to be real.

‘The force of the blast tore a hole in the sixteen-foot ceiling of the studio. Terry’s upper dental plate was cracked in half in his mouth. The photographer fainted. Lloyd, still in his mark, didn’t register what happened until moments later, when the pain just started to set in. He described his face as “raw meat.” He couldn’t see out of either eye after the blast. However, more painful was the permanent reminder of this fateful day: the thumb and forefinger of his right hand were severed.

Lloyd was rushed to the Methodist Hospital, which would be his home for the next month and a half. His eyesight eventually returned, but for a while the doctors feared for his right eye. Physicians also worried that gangrene might set in on his face, and the gashes in his lips produced cracks that were very painful. Lloyd noted that “the pain was considerable, but trivial compared with my mental state.” He had good reason to be worried.

At the time of the blast, Lloyd’s reputation as an up-and-comer in film comedy was solidified, and his most important work was in front of him. He felt certain that his career was over, and sat in his bed frantically figuring what he was going to be able to do now: 26 years old, and, supposedly, out of work. He had, though, a basic optimism that transcended his character’s enthusiasm, and he realized that he did have a future in producing, or writing, or directing, either in film or in theatre. He was not about to give up – in that way he and his on-screen persona were most similar.

Lloyd received hundreds of get well wishes. Among the cards and letters was a note from a fan, which read: “I’ve had some awful illnesses And accidents that stretched me flat. But anyway I’m still alive, And lots of people can’t say that.”‘

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