If you got to go back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood and spend Christmas with one of your favorite stars, who would you pick? It would be a really tough decision, but if you were factoring in stars who were really, REALLY into Christmas, then Harold Lloyd should probably top your list!
On his 15-acre estate Greenacres, boasting a 44-room mansion, 9-hole private golf course, a 900-foot man-made canoe stream, and what was once southern California’s largest swimming pool, Lloyd “knew how to keep Christmas well,” as Dickens would say. The main attraction of the Greenacres holiday season was always its mighty Christmas tree…which, as befitting its silent comedy megastar owner who always thought big, was no ordinary tree but three trees lashed together. The ginormous decoration was 20 feet tall and no less than 30 feet around, and stood proud at the end of the Lloyd family’s orangery. By the 1950s it held something in the neighborhood of $25,000 worth of ornaments collected from around the world–and was starting to be left up until March.
Pretty spectacular, eh? Ah, but this must’ve been earlier on in the Saga of the Mighty Tree. For by the 1960s, not only had Lloyd’s ornament collection grown to even more ginormous proportions, but the business of decorating the tree had become so time-consuming that the Lloyds decided to keep it up year-round.
Just look at this beast.
Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne would share her fond memories of that eye-popping holiday centerpiece:
It took from Thanksgiving until Christmas to decorate the tree. Over the years, my grandfather had collected thousands of ornaments from all over the world. The tree held one-of-a-kind rare ornaments valued in the hundreds of dollars when they were first purchased in the `30’s and `40’s. The tree also held homemade ones that Harold received from his charity work.
I remember a jeweled encrusted ostrich egg, and a sequined football (a reference to the college football hero Harold Lloyd played in his most popular film, “The Freshman”). I particularly loved a Christmas ball given to him by his friend, make-up artist, Wally Westmore, that was a miniature diorama depicting a bespectacled Harold in a red bathrobe trimming the tree.
When the Lloyds decided to make the tree a permanent decoration, Suzanne recalled that they had it fireproofed first. They also reinforced the branches with bamboo and steel bolts. Over the years, it came to hold a collection of over 5,000 ornaments, “…and we still had enough left over to decorate three more trees just as big!”
After Harold’s death in 1971, the tree stayed up for a few more years until 1975, when Greenacres had to be auctioned off. The tree was dismantled and apparently tossed–but what happened to all those ornaments is uncertain (at least to me!). This is purportedly a photo of a few of them:
Every once in awhile an eBay auction will claim to have ornaments from the Greenacres collection, but I’d stay skeptical if I were you.
Today, many years later, Harold Lloyd’s love of Christmas is a permanent part of his epic legacy. So I’d say that if I were to head back in time for an old Hollywood Christmas holiday, that Greenacres “is the place to be”!
A very Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season to all! Only a few days left of 2017 to go…I’m already looking forward to Silent-ology’s plans for 2018!
A Pithy Guide to Greenacres, the Estate that Laughs Built
Wonderful way to end the year. Merry Christmas, Lea!
Thank you sir–Merry Christmas to you, too!
That tree is amazing. I’m sure there must have been times when they felt like they couldn’t be bothered to put it up though, as it was just so much effort lol.
I heard the whole family would spend time hanging ornaments every day for weeks! I can see why they decided to just keep it up forever.
That is an epic tree and a wonderful story! Thanks Lea! 😁 Interesting you’d bring up Mr. Lloyd- my brother, who is a bartender, and I were just discussing possible ingredients that might’ve gone into “The Diddlebock” and we decided to try to concoct something that matches it’s description over the Christmas holiday! I’ll let you know how it turns out (and if it makes you whoop and holler like he did!) 😁 Merry Christmas!
😃 I’d love to hear how it turns out! Merry Christmas, Debbe!
So our Diddlebocks came out great! We tinkered around with the recipe a bit and ended up with something just like Harold describes- “very mild”, “very pleasant aroma”, kinda like “lemonade” and a “fruit cup”. 😁 We even found an ingredient list for Sozodont toothpaste floating around out there that helped! (I say “we”, but really it was my genius brother who did all the figuring.) One thing that was just like the movie was that NO ONE could get the name right! And some of the attempts at it were pretty hilarious (and probably unprintable!) Happy New Year, Lea!
Ha ha, this is amazing!! I’m glad the recipe turned out, and gotta say I love your commitment to getting it exactly right! *high five*
Merry Xmas to you! 🙂
Merry Christmas to you! And a happy New Year!
A thing of beauty is a joy forever!
Merry Christmas and a very happy new year.
Thanks Patricia–and likewise!
Merry Christmas to you too, Robert!
There was a auction in Hollywood back in the 1980’s where a lot of Harold’s Christmas ornaments were sold. I was lucky and was able to purchase two.
Wow, well done! Lucky indeed.
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My father was talking to me about my grandma’s cousin, who worked for a famous actor as the housekeeper. That actor did the Christmas thing like Harold… he thinks that it was Harold!
This is a great article! A part of family history! It’d be fun to learn more about Harold Lloyd!
If you have anymore information, I’d love it!
Plus, I wonder what ever happened to the ornaments. We have 5 Christmas trees in our house…. And if there was anyway to add a Harold Lloyd ornament to our trees, that’d be amazing! I keep some of my grandparents possessions as souvenirs, and one of these ornaments would be a great addition!
Thanks for posting this blog up!!!
You’re welcome! As far as what happened to Harold’s ornaments, I think a bunch have survived and occasionally turn up at auction. There’s definitely a lot of falsely labeled ones, though, so be wary of that!
Reblogged this on Silent-ology and commented:
This was a popular article in the past, and since it’s that time of the year I thought I’d pass it around again! Few people in Hollywood history got more into the Christmas spirit than Harold Lloyd, to the point where his massive tree graced his family’s home 365 days a year. Enjoy!
that tree looking at it is better than going on any date
Now there’s a compliment Lloyd wouldn’t expect, lol