Silent Era New York – Harold Lloyd’s Speedy – Part 1

Click to enlarge – Harold and friends by the Queensboro Bridge


I will be presenting Harold Lloyd’s final silent comedy Speedy (1928) at 3:10 pm on Sunday, October 21, 2012, and at 7:30 pm on Monday, October 22,  at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014, based on the discoveries in my new Lloyd book Silent Visions.  Using animated slides I will lead viewers to dozens of landmarks and forgotten byways across town, in what is the first comprehensive study of New York’s most prominent role in a major silent film.

click to enlarge – Relaxing between takes at Sutton Place and E. 58th Street

Instead of relying on stock footage of Manhattan settings, as commonly used in Hollywood productions purporting to take place in New York, Lloyd and company arrived in town in mid-August 1927 for an intended four-week shoot, and ended up filming for twelve weeks instead.  With three separate chase sequences appearing in the film, and lengthy scenes staged at Coney Island and Yankee Stadium, the resulting movie presents the Big Apple from top to bottom in loving detail, and captures some of the best photographic documentation of silent-era New York ever recorded.

Alexander Hamilton Square

As we would expect, Times Square and other classic New York landmarks make their requisite appearances, but what gives Speedy such wonderful historical value are the many charming neighborhoods also captured on film.  Above, Harold races by Alexander Hamilton Square, on Amsterdam Avenue way up north on W. 143rd Street.   In prior posts I discuss the longevity of a Sheridan Square cigar store also appearing in the film, and how Bergdorf Goodman appears both in Speedy and in Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman (1928).  There is also a Brooklyn tour here.

click to enlarge – Looking west towards 45 E. 34th Street (ovals).

Bustling city streets also appear on film.  Here, above, Harold races east down E 34th Street from near Madison Avenue towards Park Avenue. The prominent light colored building, running the entire length of the block between 5th and Madison, was the former Altman Department Store, which now houses the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center and a branch of the New York Public Library. The parapet roof at 45 E. 34th Street evident in the movie frame still appears today (ovals).

If you glance at these Google maps below, you can begin to appreciate the extent of Lloyd’s effort to capture New York on film.  I have marked nearly 50 unique settings appearing in the movie.  I may some day annotate each spot on the map with photos and text, but for now just gaze at the breadth and scope of Lloyd’s efforts.  Lloyd’s valedictory silent film Speedy is one of the most remarkably vivid depictions of early New York ever recorded.

You can access a tour of Lloyd’s Brooklyn locations shown above in this prior post.

HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.

Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives, Beth Goffe, Hooman Mehran, Nick Rumaczyk.

This entry was posted in Brooklyn, Harold Lloyd, Lloyd Tour, Manhattan, New York, Speedy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Silent Era New York – Harold Lloyd’s Speedy – Part 1

  1. One of the reasons I love watching the really old movies whether in NYC or in L.A. is to look past the action and see those cities as they were so long ago. Glad I dropped over from Shorpy!


  2. Pingback: New York, Harold Lloyd, and Adam Sandler?! | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  3. Pingback: Take a Trip to 1920s New York City with Harold Lloyd’s SPEEDY (1928) at Film Forum | cinematically insane

  4. willmckinley says:

    Hi John – I’m a big fan of your work, and i look forward to seeing SPEEDY at Film Forum this weekend!


  5. Pingback: The Last Edition 1925 – filmed in San Francisco (and LA) | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  6. GL says:

    is the general post office also visible as 1 of the pillared bldgs, or is it only penn station in the early sequence? i saw possibly 2 pillared bldgs rather than 1.


    • Hi GL – without seeing the particular scene you have in mind it’s difficult to say. If I had noticed the post office I would have pointed it out, but I could have overlooked it. If you find something let us know. Thanks, John


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