Exploring Harold Lloyd And ‘Speedy’

Speedy-Criterion-350         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
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.

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 Speedy that’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…

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May 2024