Sunday, April 14, 2013

Silent Masterpiece — Harold Lloyd's Speedy at the Julien Dubuque Int'l Film Festival

Taking us back to the innocent and playful origins of film, Harold Lloyd's Speedy is a silent masterpiece of clever theater and hilarious fun.

View 1962 interview with Harold Lloyd, along with several clips of other silent film stars and some discussion of why Lloyd was different from Chaplin.

As the marquee Saturday night event of the four-day Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, Speedy did for the audience what films rarely do: it got them laughing out loud and talking to each other afterward. The sense of community it engendered was as inspiring as it was surprising. 

Set to an original score and meant to be seen with a live orchestra, the story is of a penniless but enterprising working-class person in New York City, a believable character who must overcome financial odds to protect his father's business and win the woman he loves.

His pursuit of work gets him a job driving a cab, which earns him his titular nickname, and gets him into all sorts of trouble. The production quality of the scenes racing through Manhattan is high; they are almost breathtaking and would have been extremely difficult to film.
My children followed the story and most of the humor, some of which is three-stooges style slapstick and some of which is quite subtle and clever.
They especially liked the cameo appearance of Babe Ruth, who acts in remarkably convincing fashion.

View scene with Babe Ruth in cab (it won't be as good here as the live orchestra!)

Speedy works as a film because of its humor, but also in the way it pays homage to New York, and to the underdog. There is a universal story here about struggling with the powers that be, and doing so with flair and grace.

Kudos once again to the the JDIFF for their inclusion of this important piece of film history, and having everyone be so delighted and entertained in the process.

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