David Macleod writes in his indispensable The Sound of Buster Keaton that Speak Easily is "easily one of Buster's better MGM features". I was skeptical, as I always am when approaching Buster's talkies, but I actually enjoyed this!
First, a plot summary. From IMDb:
Naive, bookish Professor Post [Keaton] inherits a huge amount of money and decides that now he can afford to go out and enjoy life. He falls for a dancer in a bad stage show [headed by Jimmy Durante], and with his new money decides to buy the show and take it to Broadway. Will the Professor prove too nice to succeed in show business? Or will he triumph over bill-collectors, critics, and sexy vamp Eleanor Espere [Thelma Todd]? (Ken Yousten)
I'm a sucker for backstage comedies, and this one plays like vaudeville. Sure, Buster's natural talents are wasted -- it's always a little painful watching him in his 30s work -- but the film is surprisingly funny. Jimmy Durante does his huge personality thing, but somehow manages to not overwhelm the picture (which I've heard is not the case for What, No Beer?); in fact, the two men play well off each other. Thelma Todd spices things up, proving as usual that she wasn't just eye candy - she was a terrific comedienne.
It's uneven, a bit creaky in spots, and the ending could've been better...but if you're going to watch one of Buster's talkies, you could most certainly do worse.
One thing I've been wondering: that panned shot of the skyscraper...was that recycled from The Crowd? Sure looks like it!
I give this one:
[A little note here: I must thank David and Graceann Macleod, for not only providing me with this film and the wonderful book, but for being fantastic friends as well. ☺]