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Weekend Chat

An Old N.Y. Film Helps City Today

Showings of a silent classic by Harold Lloyd will aid Sept.11 rescue workers' families.


The Harold Lloyd Trust and the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood are hosting a gala benefit Friday featuring Lloyd's 1928 silent comedy classic "Speedy," to bolster the Twin Towers Fund, which aids families of the rescue workers who died during the World Trade Center tragedy on Sept. 11

Filmed on location in New York in 1927, "Speedy" finds the clean-cut, bespectacled Lloyd as an endearing baseball fan who saves the Big Apple's last horse-drawn trolley--owned by his girlfriend's grandfather--from being stolen. The film offers a nostalgic look back at such New York landmarks as Times Square, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island and Yankee Stadium. New York Yankee great Babe Ruth also makes a funny cameo in "Speedy," which was the only Lloyd film to receive an Oscar nomination. Director Ted Wilde was nominated for best comedy director, a category that was eliminated after the first year of the awards.

"Speedy," which features a new score by Carl Davis, was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Robert Israel is providing live accompaniment at both benefit screenings, which will also feature a pre-screening reception sponsored by Mumm Cuvee Napa.

"Speedy" will also screen Saturday and Sunday.

Suzanne Lloyd Hayes, the comedian's granddaughter and trustee of the Harold Lloyd Estate and Film Trust, is writing "Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian," a book on Lloyd's life that is due out in the spring.

She talked about her grandfather's appeal, "Speedy" and the weekend benefit.

Question: You'll be screening the restored print of "Speedy" at the Silent Movie Theatre. Have you restored most or all of your grandfather's movies?

Answer: All of his movies have been totally restored. They are in great shape. "Speedy" is beautiful. In fact, we showed "Speedy" three times at the Telluride Film Festival. They were blown over by it, and now "Speedy" is going on tour with the Alloy Orchestra. We will probably show it in 16 dates over the next six months in different cities.

Q: Have you found that all age groups like his movies?

A: All age groups and kids just absolutely love him. It's amazing.

Q: Was he a heartthrob during his day?

A: Very much so. He was so handsome. He actually looked completely different [in person]. He was so handsome without his glasses and his makeup on, but I think [his appeal] was because of his persona as Everyman. He was cleaned up.

Chaplin was the Little Tramp. He was a little on the disheveled side. His shoes weren't spit shine, but Harold was spit shine. Harold always had an outfit on. He had a suit on.

Keaton never had a suit on. Harold was kind of spit spot and wanting to make himself look good and be the handsome guy in the suit. He was really into making himself the man of the moment. He looks more modern than the other silent comedians. It is very much that way in "Speedy." He's metropolitan and very of now.

Q: Did you pick "Speedy" for the benefit because it was shot in New York?

A: I wanted to do it because of the New York connection and because of Fifth Avenue and the Flatiron Building and Brooklyn Bridge and Coney Island and the great spirit of the New Yorkers.

Q: Is "Speedy" the only film he made on location in New York?

A: Yes. He moved his entire crew to shoot in New York for four months. He had never done that. He produced that movie himself, and it was his studio he was doing it for. He decided that if you are going to shoot a movie about New York, it better be shot in New York. They opened up the entire city for him. They would block off streets, and they would let him do whatever he wanted.

Q: Babe Ruth is really a lot of fun in the movie.

A: He is, isn't he?

Q: Did Lloyd know the Sultan of Swat?

A: I think they must have known each other. I think Babe was having a problem ... and Harold said come on and be in this movie. It was kind of to push [Ruth] through a hard time.

Q: Although "Speedy" is 73 years old, it is amazing to realize how many buildings and locations in New York are still there now.

A: You can do a walking tour of the movie. Coney Island, the Plaza, Fifth Avenue and Washington Square--it's all there. New York was great then and it is great now.

The Twin Towers Fund benefit screenings of "Speedy" are Friday at 7:15 at the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood. A champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception is at 6:30 p.m. . Tickets are $20 and available at the door or by calling (310) 385-0633.

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