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Harold Lloyd's Speedy is a love letter to New York

Starring Harold Lloyd
New Line Home Video

Comedian Harold Lloyd filmed much of his final silent comedy feature Speedy (1928) in and around New York City. The story of a young man who struggles to keep shady businessmen from ruining his future father-in-law's old-fashioned horse-drawn car business, Speedy is a typical Harold Lloyd comedy, filled with great visual gags, extended comedy sequences and an exciting chase finale. It is also a cinematic love letter to New York City. As writer and Harold Lloyd expert Annette D’Agostino Lloyd says in her book Harold Lloyd: Magic in a Pair of Horn-Rimmed Glasses, Speedy is “…a treasured slice of nostalgia for those of us for whom New York is home[.]”

The middle section of the movie wanders away from the plot completely as Harold and his sweetie, played by Ann Christy, take a trip to Coney Island. In between Lloyd’s comedy bits, the film shows us glimpses of some of the famous amusement park rides such as The Steeplechase, consisting of mechanical horses people could ride in an actual race, and the giant water slide.

Later in the film, Harold takes a job as a cab driver, and one of his first fares is none other than the great New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth, a season after he had hit 60 home runs. Ruth, who needs to get to Yankee Stadium for a game, suffers through a harrowing cab ride. Harold’s normal reckless driving is made worse by his inability to keep his eyes on the road, as he keeps turning around to tell “The Babe” how much he admires him. When the ride is finally over, Ruth tells Harold, via an intertitle card, “If I ever want to commit suicide, I’ll call you!”

In the chase that brings the movie to its climax, the film offers shots of many features that were once part of old Manhattan, such as trolleys, which are now completely gone, and elevated trains, which are now found only in the other boroughs such as Queens and Brooklyn. Harold races his horse car through midtown Manhattan, giving us a superb look at what Times Square looked like in 1928, but in typical geographically-challenged Hollywood fashion when it comes to filming in New York City, a few shots later, Harold is in Washington Square Park, nearly fifty blocks away!

Although Harold Lloyd didn't realize it at the time, Speedy was to be his final silent film. He ended this phase of his career by giving us a classic silent comedy, one that was a virtual valentine to New York City.