I love New York. During my four years at Hofstra University, I’d often go to Manhattan for a weekend, just to take in the sights and sounds. It’s not like I didn’t grow up in an urban area (I was raised in the Boston area), but there is nothing like New York. I still missed some of the great attractions the city has to offer, but I love the experience and the atmosphere there.
Perhaps, this might be why Speedy (1928) with Harold Lloyd is one of my favorite silent films. I just love the look of the city during the ’20s Jazz Age and there is no better pair of eyes – I mean, glasses – to see that through than one of the era’s icons. The film, directed by frequent Lloyd collaborator Ted Wilde, is 86 minutes of pure exuberance and fun. It’s an ode to the (then) old New York, of horse-drawn trolleys, while also showing the progress the city had made.
Speedy also features the meeting between two greats: Lloyd and Babe Ruth. It’s a hilarious sequence and not just the cameo you might have expected. The scene runs for several minutes, as Lloyd dangerously drives The Babe to Yankee Stadium while trying to stare at his famous passenger.
But what’s really great about the film is what makes so many of Lloyd’s films great. There’s the feeling that what is happening to him could happen to any of us. His dreams are ours as he tries to stand up to The Man, with his lovely girlfriend by his side. Ann Christy might not have done much work with Lloyd, but she’s perfect as his companion, making the Coney Island sequences unforgettable.
Speedy was finally released on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection in December 2015 and is one of their best releases of the year. The extras are incredibly informative, with the Film Forum’s Bruce Goldstein providing fun looks at the New York of the Teens and ’20s. As a baseball fan, I loved watching the feature full of old footage of Babe Ruth. Sure, it doesn’t have much directly involved with Speedy, but it’s a fascinating look at media and popularity in America. It’s rather amazing to see how similar we treat our celebrities, even before the Internet.
Speedy is a fun classic and proof that comedy is as much an art form as acting in dramas. No one needed to really prove that, but if you’re still up in the air about it, Lloyd’s work will convince you.