When silent film aficionados sit down in fine leather wing-back chairs to discuss silent comedy while indulging in fine brandy and cigars, the two contenders for greatest clown are invariably Chaplin and Keaton.
But in April, 1923, Famous Players asked movie-goers to vote between Chaplin and another titan of comedy, Harold Lloyd. The results, posted below, show that Lloyd’s comedies were a force to be reckoned with.
Here are the results, published in the Toronto Daily Star on April 9, 1923:
72, 087 theatre patrons voted in the Harold Lloyd-Charlie Chaplin Popularity Contest last week at the Hippodrome, Pantages and Regent Theatre.
At least that many more, who didn’t vote, saw the two film comedians in their latest productions.
The total results were:
HAROLD LLOYD, 46,463
CHARLIE CHAPLIN, 25,624
Both popular fun-makers can be seen one more week in downtown theatres — Don’t miss this chance to see your favourite.
Toronto’s population in 1921 was 522 000. If the numbers above, stating that “at least” 144 174 had attended the screenings, are accurate — which could very well be, as the Pantages alone could seat 3436, with four shows a day — over one fifth of Toronto’s population had gone to the flickers that week.
The results might seem surprising, but recent film history books rarely take box office sales and contemporary popularity into account — only modern-day appraisals of their output. If the vote had occurred a few years later, Harry Langdon, the “forgotten clown” of the 1920s whose films regularly packed Toronto’s biggest houses, could have gone toe-to-toe with Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton.