Today is the anniversary of the release date of Free and Easy (1930), Buster Keaton’s first starring talkie feature.
Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Free and Easy is an out-and-out big-budget musical which thrusts Keaton amongst Anita Page, Robert Montgomery, Fred Niblo and Trixie Friganza. Keaton plays a small town garage mechanic who tags along with his sweetheart on her big trip out to Hollywood to become an actress. Unaccountably he winds up in the pictures himself. There is opportunity for the great Stoneface not only to talk but sing and dance, and even indulge in occasional slapstick. The film is less funny than irritating as sad sack Keaton is perpetually harassed, belittled and browbeaten by just about everyone he meets. It’s really only a film for sadists, but it’s must-see viewing for anyone interested in Keaton’s evolution after the coming of sound.
For more on silent and slapstick film history, including Buster Keaton vehicles like “Free and Easy” see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube