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Harold Lloyd once said of his movies, "Every second something is about to happen, is happening, or just happened." That's especially true of his short subjects, like the two-reeler Bumping Into Broadway (1919) - a film of near-constant movement.
Essentially the story of a romance between a struggling playwright and an actress, the picture is comprised of three main episodes. The first establishes Lloyd and Bebe Daniels as neighbors in a boardinghouse. When Lloyd gives up his rent money to help Daniels pay her own rent, he must avoid the landlord on his way out of the building, making for some classic physical comedy. Next, Lloyd gets to the theater only to unknowingly annoy the manager. He comes to Daniels' defense when she is fired from the show, and the two end up at a supper club where Lloyd unwittingly wins at roulette before the place is raided by cops.
This was Lloyd's first two-reel comedy as the "Glasses Character." The addition of his famous glasses a year or so earlier allowed him to inject vulnerability into his persona as the eager all-American guy racing to get ahead, and they had already proven successful in one-reelers. Author Tom Dardis has noted that the Lloyd character's success in this and other films is due to his "sheer energy and ingenuity; it was the interplay of these two elements that began, at the outset of the twenties, to fascinate filmgoers all over the world."
Bumping Into Broadway was the first of nine two-reelers to be produced over eighteen months under a new contract with Pathe Studios. It cost just over $17,000 to produce, and gross rentals over the next three years amounted to $150,000. Lloyd's personal take was about $32,000 (not including his weekly salary). Those were big numbers, and clearly these were enormously profitable little films. Lloyd was soon one of the richest performers in Hollywood.
It's worth noting that while Lloyd's natural talent was phenomenal, it didn't hurt that at the time he made this short he had less competition than usual. Buster Keaton was on a yearlong hiatus from filmmaking, serving in the Army, and Charlie Chaplin released only two short films in 1919. Lloyd's only real competitor was Fatty Arbuckle, who still far outdrew him.
Bebe Daniels made only one more film with Lloyd, Captain Kidd's Kids (1919), before she was scooped up by Cecil B. DeMille to star in features. He had been after her for some time. Before too long, Daniels was a major star in her own right.
Producer/Director: Hal Roach
Screenplay: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Walter Lundin
Music: Robert Israel
Cast: Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Bebe Daniels (Actress), 'Snub' Pollard (Stage Manager), William Gillespie (Stage Door Johnny), Helen Gilmore (Landlady).
by Jeremy Arnold