#18 – Speedy (1928)
Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, and Bert Woodruff
Director: Ted Wilde, Producer: Harold Lloyd, Production Company: Paramount Pictures
An enterprising young man in New York City speeds his way from one job to the next, leaving disaster in his path. Besides just keeping a job, his goal is to marry his pretty girlfriend and help her grandfather keep the only horse-drawn trolley left in New York running.
This is the first silent film which I am reviewing as part of #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020, and probably will be the only one. If the term pre-Code is used to mean before the Code, silent movies technically are pre-Code. However, I generally follow the trend of classifying the Pre-Code Era as the period between 1930 and 1934, when talkies were not regulated by the Code. Silents were generally not as risque and scandalous as talking pre-Codes, their possibility for offensive being severely limited by the lack of dialogue. However, that doesn’t mean the average silent film was Code compliant, since indecent costumes, excessive violence, immoral situations, and other Code violations were common. This Harold Lloyd film is a hilarious comedy. Much of the humor is genuinely and decently funny. However, as is the case with many comedies made outside the American Breen Era, many of the laughs are gotten by questionable content. Many of the objections occur when Speedy (Harold Lloyd) and and Jane (Ann Christy) go to Coney Island. One gag involves a crab which somehow gets into Speedy’s pocket. This crustacean has a penchant for pinching women’s posteriors, getting Speedy blamed! This gag and the focus on women’s backsides is quite improper. Also at Coney Island, Speedy sits on a recently painted bench, getting paint all over his brand new suit. When he sees the stripes on his back in a fun-house mirror, he angrily makes a gesture at himself. Finally, he is shown eating a lot of different foods at Coney Island. Just as one is beginning to think that all that food will make him sick, we see him leaning over, facing away from the camera, as Jane pats him on the back. Although he eventually turns around and shows us that he is just trying to blow up a balloon in some sort of carnival game, there is no denying that they were trying to make us think he was sick. One other thing I noticed is that, when the trolley’s wheel breaks later in the film, he can be seen mouthing a profanity. Although no title card interprets what he said, silent films often allowed questionable dialogue to be read off lips. In all, this is a delightful movie, yet it shows that, even before the soundtrack, filmmakers needed the Code’s guidance to help them make acceptable entertainment for everyone.
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