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Silent Sunday Nights - January 2014
Remind Me


The title for the Harold Lloyd vehicle Speedy (1928) came from the bespectacled comic's own nickname, bestowed upon him by his father. The nickname also was used by Lloyd in The Freshman (1925), in which his character instructed, "Step right up and call me Speedy!" It was a handle that suited the athletic, fast-moving Lloyd, whose character in Speedy is a sports nut whose adventures include a memorably wild trolley ride.

In this, his final silent film, Lloyd plays Harold "Speedy" Swift, whose enthusiasm for baseball interferes with his holding a job. Speedy's sweetheart (Ann Christy) is the granddaughter of the owner of the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City, which is stolen by railway magnates that covet its route. The film's climax comes as Speedy recovers the trolley and makes a mad dash to get it back on its route. During filming at the Brooklyn Bridge, the trolley crashed by accident into the steel pillars adjoining the bridge, providing an unexpectedly vivid scene when the smash-up was captured by the camera and left in the movie with little editing.

The movie's location shooting provides today's audiences with fascinating views of New York City as it looked in the late 1920s, including many buildings that have since vanished. Scenes were shot at the old Penn Station, the Queensboro Bridge, Columbus Circle, Wall Street, Yankee Stadium and Coney Island's Luna Park, with Lloyd attracting large numbers of onlookers wherever he was working. For the Luna Park sequence Walter Lundin, Lloyd's regular cameraman, made use of actual Coney Island crowds to lend the film a documentary-like feeling.

The great Babe Ruth has a delightful cameo in Speedy, playing himself as a nervous passenger during Speedy's short-lived career as a cabdriver. After a daredevil ride to Yankee Stadium, Speedy settles into the stands to watch his famous fare step into action on the baseball diamond.

Lloyd was a top draw during this period, outpacing both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to be named in exhibitor polls as the number-one box office attraction in the U.S. Speedy, thanks to the cost of relocating Lloyd and his crew of 35 from Hollywood to Manhattan, was a very expensive movie for its day, costing a quarter of a million more than Lloyd's previous film, The Kid Brother (1927).

Speedy was a hit both in the U.S. and abroad, earning total grosses of more than $2 million. Director Ted Wilde was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film. Although Lloyd had some success in talking films, his masterpieces were made for the silent screen. Speedy allowed him to say farewell to an era in great style.

Producer: Harold Lloyd
Director: Ted Wilde
Screenplay: John Grey, Jay Howe, Lex Neal, Howard Emmett Rogers, Albert DeMond (titles), Paul Girard Smith (uncredited).
Cinematography: Walter Lundin
Principal Cast: Harold Lloyd (Harold "Speedy" Swift), Ann Christy (Jane Dillon), Bert Woodruff (Pop Dillon), Brooks Benedict (Steven Carter), Babe Ruth (Himself).

by Roger Fristoe