I will be completely honest. I have watched several silent films so far, some of which I loved, some of which I did not, but one that I feel is no longer relatable is Speedy.
The comedy is just over an hour long and full of slap-stick that Americans would normally love and respect. The star, who at the time was a bigger crowd pleaser than Charlie Chaplin himself, is none other than Harold Lloyd. His character is very bad at keeping down a job, partly because he is obsessed with the Yankees, but also because he is probably the most unlucky klutz of all mankind.
After losing another job, he takes his girlfriend Jane (Ann Christy) out to Coney Island where the slap-stick and ill fortune continues. They pick up a dog along the way and ruin his new suit in the process. The whole story climaxes at the end with Jane’s Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff) who runs the last horse drawn trolley in the city. As long as he runs the trolley once every twenty-four hours, he keeps his rout, but the big railroad tycoons are trying to take over and offer Pop pennies for his track.
The one thing Speedy seems to do right is recognize that Pop’s rout is worth a lot of money and he will do everything to make sure that the trolley stays running, Pop doesn’t get hurt, and the tycoons pay up.
Speedy has three distinct acts. In the first, Speedy loses his job and takes Jane out to Coney Island anyways. There is essentially no dialogue, only slap-stick comedy. When it comes to films depicting complete idiots who fail at every turn, I have very little patience. Although others find it amusing, and I could understand how this film could entertain in 1928, I grit my teeth and often leave the room because I can’t stand to watch it. That is how I felt the entire 71 minutes of this film. It was extremely uncomfortable.
In the second act, Speedy has a job as a cab driver. He does everything from having an out-of-order sign on his car (unbeknownst to him), to getting several tickets, to driving the Great Bambino Babe Ruth himself to a Yankees game. He does absolutely nothing right and loses another job in the same day that he gets it. Yet again, I could not sit still while watching.
The third act is my favorite. Speedy finally succeeds at something and he has a goal–protect Pop and save the trolley. He enlists the help of some old veterans who have their game nights in the trolley and feel fiercely protective of it. The railroad tycoons have hired some thugs to take it out of commission, but Speedy and his boys will do anything to stop them.
There were a lot of things I could do without in this film, but it did have a few highlights. Ann Christy does a lovely job and I enjoyed her character as well as her performance. The shots of Coney Island are exquisite and if you have the opportunity to see this portion of the film, I would recommend it simply so that you can see it. The lights, the booths, and most especially the rides are so nostalgic and lovely. Lloyd’s last silent film captures the heart of Coney Island perfectly. Despite this, however, I could have done without the first two acts entirely. I wish that the story had more of a focus and got less sidetracked while attempting to make the audience laugh. Perhaps it is because America had come to expect this sort of comedy from Lloyd; I wouldn’t know. I wish that they had instead beefed up the third act and made it almost the entire movie.
That being said, I am unfortunately not a fan of Speedy and don’t plan on ever watching it again. The recommendation to see it is very hesitant, although I would love for you to see some of the Coney Island shots and perhaps Babe Ruth himself looking very uncomfortable in the back of a speeding cab. Besides that, however, I really disliked most of the rest of the film.