I have been well acquainted with the films of Charlie Chaplin which always seem to couple romance and comedy so nicely with the character of the Tramp.
However, I had seen very little of Buster Keaton and I had only heard of the name Harold Lloyd. Recently I have finally had the pleasure of taking in more of their work and I must say I have a new appreciation for them. With their respective films it is understandable how they were able to give Chaplin a run for his money. Keaton always appears as a solemn figure whether he is a Confederate soldier, a detective, and so on. He does not try and win our sympathy or affection but he is always determined to take on whatever his world throws at him. His various hilarious and often life-threatening antics cause us to cheer for his characters and in turn we also grow to respect Keaton for his talent as an actor and a director. (Recently I have been able to see Sherlock Jr., Steamboat Bill Jr., and Our Hospitality).
Then, there is Harold Lloyd, the number three man of the silent era comedians. Lloyd had his own persona that he developed to perfection. He was the nerdish fellow who always wore the same pair of glasses and the same hat. He makes us laugh because of his naivete and various antics including scaling a building only to dangle from a clock (Lloyd actually only had eight fingers to accomplish this feat because of an accident). This causes us to empathize with him much like we would with Chaplin, but their styles could never be confused with each other. (I was able to watch Safety Last! and The Freshman).
That is the beauty of these three men because each one created his own legend and so each one is an icon in his own right. People might fight over who is the best of the group, but really there is no comparison since they all went in different directions. Although these films may be an acquired taste, I hope to be able to watch more in the future sometime!