Monday, February 11, 2008


Courtesy of the Pacific Film Archives, I spent last Saturday afternoon watching a jewel - a print of Speedy, a Harold Lloyd silent comedy from 1928. It must have been one of his last silents - The Jazz Singer came out the year before.

Apart from Lloyd's reliably funny physical comedy, this film had several wonderful benefits: it was set and filmed in New York City, so you get to see what New York City looked like in 1928. There's a whole sequence where Harold ("Speedy") takes his girl to Coney Island, so you get to see what Coney Island looked like in 1928, including the nighttime lights - fabulous! And there's a cameo appearance by Babe Ruth, playing himself (he only appeared in 3 feature films), and a short sequence of a ball game at Yankee Stadium. I mean, what more can you ask? Plus a great live accompaniment by a very accomplished pianist, Mr. Bruce Loeb. In one of those great Berkeley moments, I was discussing the film's views of New York with a trio of Even Older People, and one of the women commented that she was in New York in 1928 - she was in school then! (May I look that good when I get to that age!)

On top of all this, Speedy contains one of the greatest chase sequences I've personally seen in movies. (Do remember that I don't see that many movies, so don't haul out all your great hard-techno action sequences and throw them at me. I don't watch hard-techno movies.) I put this one up there with the chases in Around the World in 80 Days and the Seven Percent Solution, where they were tearing up the (train, boat) and feeding the pieces into the boiler to keep up steam. This one has no boiler, but Lloyd races a horse-drawn street car across New York in the middle of traffic. A better comparison might be Buster Keaton in The General, chasing his train.

We all walked out of the theater smiling, and that's just priceless.

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