Sunday, January 26, 2014
The best I can say about Speak Easily is it's mildly amusing.
Keaton plays an isolated professor spurred to discover the outside world in this unmemorable plot; Durante is a manager of a traveling dancing troupe.
Speak Easily was Keaton's second-to-last MGM film and the second of three films in which MGM teamed him with Jimmy Durante. Durante fans (are there many now?) probably find much to enjoy here, but Keaton fans can only see Keaton's talents being amazingly wasted. It's sad to see only glimpses of genius sprinkled through the film: Keaton nonchalantly removing himself from a policeman's gaze, gracefully choreographed pratfalls with Thelma Todd... Keaton's scenes with the very funny Todd, minus Durante, are the best in the film.
Keaton was in a bad place when Speak Easily was made. Continual, headline-making conflicts with this wife, Natalie Talmadge, Keaton's alcoholism and his creative conflicts with MGM all contributed to missed days on the set, costing MGM $33,000 in delayed shooting.
Speak Easily has fallen in the public domain and is available in many poor prints on DVD. The best print available is probably in the Warner Bros. Buster Keaton at MGM Triple Feature DVD-R box set. Speak Easily is also shown on TCM.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Huddle, starring Ramon Novarro as an Italian immigrant who somehow gets a paid entrance to Yale, is dreadful. Novarro didn't want to play the role, for good reasons.
33 at the time, Novarro was too old for the role. The movie is too long. The collegiate singing is annoying and frequent. We're to believe Novarro becomes a football star (he had to learn how to play football for the role); the ending, wherein he wins the game during a bout of appendicitis, is ludicrous.
Ralph Graves plays a reverent and clean and thus wholly unbelievable football coach. Una Merkel plays a colleague's girlfriend, but her talents are wasted; I don't think she has more than five lines in the film. Madge Evans does plays a good love interest.
Audiences of the time didn't think much of the film, either. It lost $28,000 and was one of several miscalculations on MGM's part during this time period that devalued Novarro's box office worth.
Huddle has been released on Warner Bros. Archive DVD-R.