US Release Date: 11-02-1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
- Harold Lloyd, as
- The Boy
- Bebe Daniels, as
- The Girl
- Snub Pollard, as
- Director of Musical Comedy
- Helen Gilmore, as
- 'Bearcat' the Landlady
- Noah Young, as
- The Bearcat's Bouncer
- Gus Leonard, as
- Desperate Woman
- William Gillespie as
- Stage Door Johnnie
Bebe Daniels, Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard in Bumpin into Broadway
Bumping into Broadway finds Harold Lloyd in his element. He is a playwright living in New York trying to get produced. He lives in a tenement slum next door to Bebe Daniels. Both are behind on the rent, but Harold manages to find just enough to pay off his debt. Before he can pay his rent he feels sorry for Bebe and gives his money to her.
This leads to a game of hide and seek, as Harold tries to leave the apartment building without the land lady, or her bouncer, catching him. At twenty five minutes, Harold packs in plenty of action and humor. At one point he climbs out his window and falls into the arms of the homely woman who lives below him, who had just prayed for a man.
Bebe is in a chorus line and Harold follows her to work. She gets taken on a date by a rich swell to a private gambling club. With the help of a happy dog, Harold gets into the club. While the swell is putting the moves on Bebe, Harold hits the roulette table and scores big. Just then the police break in and everyone scatters, except Harold who is too busy collecting his money. This leads to another big chase. His best gag is when he drapes a coat over his head and hangs himself up.
Harold Lloyd almost always played the everyman, He struggled to get the job or girl. He had to over come some common problems like lack of money. He was always that nice guy that just needed a break. Bumping into Broadway is Lloyd doing what he did best.
Harold Lloyd leaps into action in Bumping into Broadway.
Bumping into Broadway is most notable for being the very first two-reeler to feature Harold Lloyd's “Glasses” character. He had originated the character in 1917's Over the Fence. Up until this movie he had only done one-reel shorts with his soon to be world famous screen persona. Lloyd wouldn't make the transition to feature length movies until Grandma's Boy in 1922.
The movie begins at a slow pace during the early sequence at the boarding house. It gets better as it goes along. The second “act” takes place backstage at a vaudeville house and the third (and by far most enjoyable) “act” happens at the gambling speakeasy.
I'm not sure if this was the first time Harold employed some of his signature gags but I do know he would repeat several of them in later movies, some of them many times. These include the homely woman Eric wrote about that's desperate for a man. She prays for one only to have her prayers answered when Harold unexpectedly dangles in front of her open window. This "woman", by the way, was played by a man named Gus Leonard in drag. Eric also mentioned one of Lloyd's most commonly used sight gags where he hides by hanging under his coat on a coat hook.
It is interesting to see how New York's Finest are portrayed. The police are quite brutal in their behavior. It is all played for laughs of course but they are shown beating people repeatedly with billy clubs. Also of interest is the fact that although it is set in New York City, from the above photograph, you can clearly tell it was actually filmed in California.
The ending is cute with Harold and Bebe kissing behind a small rug that Harold picks up and holds in front of them, blocking the camera's view. Bumping into Broadway is an amusing little movie that foreshadowed much of what Harold would do later in better known movies.
Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels in Bumping into Broadway.
In 1919, Buster Keaton was completing his time in the Army and so only appeared in two films that year. Charlie Chaplin also took it easy that year, only making three movies. Fatty Arbuckle appeared in just seven shorts. Harold Lloyd though, was working non-stop, appearing in 40 shorts released that year, including, as Patrick wrote, the very first two-reeler to feature his most famous persona. The move into two-reelers and the lack of competition from the other big silent film comedians that year, really pushed Lloyd's career to the next level.
Another change in Lloy'ds career that year was that his frequent female co-star, Bebe Daniels would move on to a career of her own in features, working with Cecille B. DeMille. After starring in over 150 shorts together, their collaboration would end after just one more short after this one. The two shared a chemistry together, both onscreen and off. They both seem very much of the time period, Daniels with her flapper, Jazz baby look and Lloyd with all the energy of the coming decade.
The plot and the action in this short is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff, but still funny none the less. Some jokes are stretched out a bit and you can see how moving from one reel to two allows this. Patrick mentioned that it starts slow and it's because of this stretching of jokes. For example, Lloyd wrestles with his typewriter trying to get it unstuck and if this were a one-reeler it would have been edited more tightly to fit it in, but here, with the extra time, the joke goes on just a bit too long.
I agree that the final act is the funniest portion of the short. Lloyd's physical antics and energy take the humor up a notch at this stage. In fact, although this is a two-reeler, it's almost literally two, one-reelers put together. The scenes at the boarding house are separate from all that occurs after they leave it. The story could just as easily have begun in the theater.
This is a funny enough little short, perhaps not his funniest work, but it was an important step for Lloyd during a pivotal year in his career.
Photos © Copyright Rolin Films (1919)