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Harold Lloyd

 

SPEEDY

 

Paramount Famous Lasky Corp., 1928.  Directed by Ted Wilde.  Camera:  Walter Lundin.  With Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, Bert Woodruff, George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Byron Douglas, Brooks Benedict, King Tut, Dan Wolheim, Lou Gehrig, Hank Knight.

Amidst a New York harbor background, a Lower East Side neighborhood is reminiscent of the Old World.  Pop Dillon runs one of the last horse-drawn trolleys in the City, and the franchise is safe as long as the trolley runs once every 24 hours.  A railroad monopoly is interested in Pop's route, as it needs to buy up all the local franchises in order to grow.  The head of the monopoly, W.S. Wilton, argues with Pop over the worth of the trolley route.

Meanwhile, Pop's granddaughter, Jane, loves Speedy, "an irresponsible, flip, scatterbrained baseball-crazy youth of a kind the city breeds by the thousands."  His present job is as a drugstore soda jerk, and he spends most of his shift on the phone, keeping up with the latest scores.  He soon loses that job: told to deliver flowers to the boss' house (or not to come back), Speedy gets stuck on the street (checking the score), and loses his flowers.  Jane is shocked that Speedy could not keep that job, but Pop is not surprised at all.  Speedy, ever flip, rationalizes: "Why worry about losing a job on Saturday when we can go to Coney Island on Sunday?" The couple enjoy a fun-filled day at the park, ending up broke, and hitching a ride on board a moving truck, along with a stray dog they met on the boardwalk.

The next day, Speedy knows he must find a job, and he responds to an ad at The Only One Cab Company, for a cab driver who is steady and reliable.  Speedy and taxi leave the garage, but a door handle accidentally catches an "Out of Order" sign.  Through the day, Speedy cannot figure out why he has no takers! That is cleared tip and, after a few wild fares, including a chase with two detectives, Speedy gets the thrill of his life: he is called to drive Babe Ruth to the Yankee Stadium.  It's a wild ride for the Bambino, who finally does get to the "house he built" on time.

Speedy goes in to see the game, but meets up with his taxi boss―he is promptly fired.  Speedy, however, overhears a plot to steal Pop's trolley, keeping it from running for one day (spearheaded by Wilton and the monopoly).  Speedy gathers help from the neighborhood old-timers (who use the trolley as a late-night clubhouse), and they formulate a counterattack.  In case of any trouble, they agree to use the same catch phrase they used in the Civil War: "It smells like rain!"  The old-timers, with the enthusiasm they probably showed during the War, prepare rolling pins, horseshoes, baseball bats, and clipping shears as weapons of mass destruction.  The old-timers take on the monopoly's young hooligans―in the midst of the melee, however, the trolley has been stolen.

Speedy employs his dog to sniff out the location of the horse and trolley, and embarks on one of his most harrowing races ever.  Speedy knows he must reach the end of the line by ten o'clock, or Pop loses his franchise.  He rescues the horse and trolley from the gang's Kent Avenue hideout, but the horse develops hoof trouble, so Speedy finds another off the street.  Speedy has a police escort for his ride: a police mannequin, that is, that had fallen off a truck display.  Speedy attached the dummy to the front of the trolley, upright, so that it looked as if a cop were standing next to Speedy.  And, whenever anyone looked, Speedy rigged the mannequin's arm so that when he pulled a rope, the cop's hollow arm would rise in salutation.

Speedy is the embodiment of determination: when he has a collision with a beam of the elevated subway, and loses a wheel, he replaces it with a manhole cover.  The gangsters have one last trick up their sleeves, and have dug a deep hole across Pop's street, hoping to shear the trolley into pieces.  Speedy loses the bottom part of the trolley in the ditch, but he continues on to the end of the line, saving the day and making the deadline with two minutes to spare.

The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia,
by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd
McFarland & Company, Inc.,
 
Jefferson, NC and London, 2004

Additional detailed information about this film is available from
the AFI Catalog of Feature Films at
AFI.com, or by clicking here.

 
 

Additional photos courtesy of Gary