Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Speak Easily (1932)

courtesy Doctor Macro

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)

courtesy Doctor Macro

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.  

courtesy Doctor Macro

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.  ]


Ruby said...

I have never seen this one. I wish there was a way I could afford all the wonderful films of the past featuring the stars that delight me. Sadly I have to always try to catch them on TCM. I will keep my eyes open for this one.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Ruby, you're in luck! It's a public domain movie, and streaming for free on Youtube!

Hope you enjoy it! :)

Kimberly J.M. Wilson said...

I've never watched a Buster Keaton talkie for many reasons, most notably because I hear bad things about them. It's refreshing to hear someone say that one is watchable.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

I've been pretty much the same -- especially since the excruciating "Free and Easy". Go into it pretending it's not even a Buster picture -- you'll be pleasantly surprised!

John Bengtson said...

Hi - footage from The Crowd appears in What No Beer, so it likely appears in Speak Easily too.

You can read the whole discussion, and how other MGM bits were re-used in other films, in this series of posts at Nitrateville.

Vidor’s The Crowd – Keaton’s What No Beer?

I too have a post about Speak Easily

silentlocations DOT wordpress DOT com


Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Thanks for the links, John - and by the way, I'm a big fan of your work! :)