Keaton and Durante in “Speak Easily”

SPEAK EASILY

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the MGM comedy Speak Easily (1932), directed by Eddie Sedgwick. Though it is billed as “A Buster Keaton Production” and only “with” Jimmy Durante, Durante is better than Keaton in the film, as is their comely co-star Thelma Todd. Keaton is miscast (as he almost invariably is in these MGM comedies) as a college professor, one whom, despite the presence of a pince nez, pronounces “hundred” as “hunerd”. It’s sort of a musical comedy plot, but minus the assets you would usually put into it: songs and dances. Buster is a moussy professor with no social life. He is made to think he has inherited $750,000 so that he will go out and start living life to the fullest. So he produces a Broadway show. One of the film’s few notable bits is the “putting a drunk woman to bed” routine, which Keaton recycles from Spite Marriage (also directed by Sedgwick), which had only been three years earlier. Nobody’s finest moment.

For more on early film history, including Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante movies like “Speak Easily” don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube

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