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Exploring Harold Lloyd And ‘Speedy’

Harold Lloyd’s great silent comedies aren’t new to home video—I introduced them on DVD a decade ago—but now they’re getting deluxe treatment from the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD. That’s great news for devotees and newcomers alike. The latest release, Speedy (1928), has a generous array of bonus features that make it well worth acquiring even if you already have a copy.

Film expert Bruce Goldstein produced and hosts a half-hour documentary on Harold’s use of New York City locations, packed with eye-opening information that I, a native New Yorker, never knew. He also points out where Los Angeles occasionally doubles for the Big Apple. (Incidentally, I urge you to watch the movie before you take in this documentary, so you can enjoy Speedy without being distracted by details of its production.) Bruce also contributes a commentary track, joined by TCM programmer Scott McGee, and narrates a selection of stills from deleted scenes.

Speedy-Criterion Collection-Blu-ray

(Criterion Collection)

Harold’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, who was raised by Harold and his wife Mildred, narrates a captivating selection of home movies which were professionally shot by Harold’s production team. It’s fascinating to see how Suzanne and other privileged Hollywood tots were treated way back when. (This footage also enables us to get a glimpse of Harold’s right hand without the prosthetic glove he wore when he was in character.)

Because Babe Ruth makes a famous appearance in Speedy, we also get a plentiful selection of newsreel clips featuring the Bambino, annotated by baseball expert David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.

The package also includes one of Lloyd’s lively two-reel shorts, Bumping into Broadway (1919), featuring Snub Pollard and my favorite of Harold’s leading ladies, Bebe Daniels. It marks the first appearance of the “glasses character” in a two-reeler, and is the only one of his films aside from Speedythat’s set in New York City. Robert Israel provides first-class musical accompaniment.

The feature itself has always looked good, but as usual Criterion has gone the extra mile, creating a new 4K digital master from the fine-grain restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and married it to Carl Davis’ 1992 orchestra score.

Last but not least, the Criterion booklet offers a new essay about Lloyd and his comedy by the erudite critic Philip Lopate.

I enjoyed all of this material almost as much as I did the feature-film. Bravo to everyone at Criterion for another job well done.

Now, a confession: I am far behind in my coverage of DVDs and hope to catch up early in the new year. Among those I want to see: Flicker Alley’s Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies and William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes, as well as Undercrank Productions’ release of the Baby Peggy feature The Family Secret. Stay tuned…

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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