Sunday, January 26, 2014

Speak Easily (1932)

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.

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