The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us. 

SPEEDY (1928)

Run Time: 1:25:00
Producer: The Harold Corporation
Director: Ted Wilde
Writer: Albert DeMond (titles), John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Emmett Rogers
Key Cast: Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, Bert Woodruff


“Aw, Jane – why worry about losing a job on Saturday, when we can go to Coney Island on Sunday?” Harold “Speedy” Swift, a fan of Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, saves from extinction the city’s last horse-drawn trolley, operated by his girlfriend’s grandfather.

Speedy is a 1928 American silent comedy film starring comedian Harold Lloyd in the eponymous leading role. It was Lloyd’s last silent film to be released theatrically, and the second to last produced by Lloyd’s own production company. It is also the last silent film directed by Ted Wilde, and was shot in both Hollywood, and on location in New York City. The film is now in the Public Domain.


Everybody in New York City “is in such a hurry that they take Saturday’s bath on Friday so they can do Monday’s washing on Sunday”. But in one slower-paced, “old-fashioned corner of the city”, Pop Dillon (Burt Woodruff) owns and operates the city’s last horse-drawn streetcar. His granddaughter Jane Dillon (Ann Christy) is in love with Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd).

Speedy, an avid New York Yankees fan, is working at a soda shop. As well as doing his work, he takes frequent telephone calls during Yankees games and passes the line scores on to the kitchen staff by arranging food items in a display case (such as doughnuts for zeroes). But he loses the job after he is ordered to deliver some flowers and lets someone close a car door on them when he gets distracted by a display of baseball scores in a shop window.

Streetcar magnate W.S. Wilton (Byron Douglas) comes to Pop’s home to ask for his price to sell the car line, but Speedy spots a newspaper article and realizes that this is part of a plan to form a streetcar monopoly in the city. He surreptitiously raises Pop’s written price from $10,000 to $70,000. Wilton angrily refuses and threatens to force Pop out instead.

Speedy is unworried about being unemployed; he is very much used to losing jobs and finding new ones. He and Jane go to Coney Island, where they greatly enjoy themselves despite various mishaps, such as Speedy ruining his suit jacket by leaning against wet paint. On the way home along with a stray dog that decided to follow them, Speedy proposes to Jane, but she will not marry him until her grandfather’s affairs are settled.

Speedy is hired as a taxi driver, but for some time a series of mishaps prevents him from actually taking a passenger, and he antagonizes a policeman. Then, to his delight, Babe Ruth (playing himself) hails the cab to get to Yankee Stadium. Although terrified by Speedy’s driving, he offers Speedy a ticket to the game; but the taxi owner is there, sees Speedy in the seats when he should be working, and fires him.

At the stadium, Speedy happens to overhear Wilton on the telephone. Wilton has learned that if Pop fails to operate the horsecar every 24 hours he will lose his right to the line, and orders goons to be sent to disrupt the operation. Speedy rushes home and arranges with small-business owners on the street to organize a defense. The goons are beaten off with the help of Speedy’s dog, but return and steal the horse and car.

Again helped by his dog, Speedy finds out where the car has been taken and manages to steal it back. In a madcap chase scene, he brings it back across the city to Pop’s tracks, stealing fresh horses, tricking police to avoid being stopped, and replacing a broken wheel with a manhole cover.

When Wilton sees the horsecar in place, he agrees to meet Pop’s price. Speedy says that Pop is a bit deaf and won’t hear him until he offers $100,000. Wilton agrees, and Speedy suggests to Jane that they plan a visit to Niagara Falls by horsecar.

*During the Coney Island sequence, at one point Speedy gives the finger to himself while looking in a distorted mirror. This may be the earliest motion picture depiction of that gesture.

*At the end of the scene where Speedy gives Babe Ruth a ride in his taxi, sharp-eyed viewers can look for an easily missed cameo appearance by Lou Gehrig, Ruth’s famous New York Yankee teammate. Gehrig walks by the far side of Speedy’s cab, looks directly at the camera through the taxi’s window, and sticks out his tongue.


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