Review: Speak Easily (1932)

This lesser Buster Keaton film casts him as a college professor whose bookish life is jump started by an inheritance. Hopping a train to find adventure, he falls in with a traveling show filled with pretty girls of dubious talent and offers up his inheritance to finance their Broadway opening.

Jimmy Durante co-stars as a member of the troupe. His appeal has always escaped me and pairing him with Keaton is a version of comic oil and water. Though Durante’s brashness is toned down a bit here, his mugging to the audience style is the polar opposite of Keaton’s style. Past his prime by 1932, Keaton was relegated once again to pratfalls, playing the bumbling stumbling dupe, a far cry from the charm of his trademark clever sight gags. Filled with forgettable performances and musical numbers, there are far better classic backstage musicals than Speak Easily, so I’d really only recommend this for Keaton fans. [** out of 5]

One thought on “Review: Speak Easily (1932)

  1. I’d not recommend “Speak Easily” Buster Keaton fans. Seeing such a phenomenal writer, actor, comic, director, and stunt man subjected to this humiliating spectacle is like seeing a Picasso used as a drop cloth, or perhaps more like seeing the finest camembert adulterated with whey solids and processed into Cheez-Whiz.
    Keaton is ill-cast as Professor Post, whose overblown vocabulary is the only thing keeping him from saying, “Tell me about the rabbits, George.” (Post would have said something like, “Kindly inform me as to the status of the small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, kind sir, who I believe is primarily addressed with the epithet ‘George’.”) When Keaton created his own characters, they might be situationally clueless but they weren’t stupid. They were quick studies and became masters of their worlds. Not so with Post, who never stops stumbling and bumbling and who who has no more control of his destiny than a bilge rat had of the Titanic. And while Keaton’s
    original characters had a charming naivete and innocence, Post comes across as such a profound sexual retardate that if he ever did become physically aroused, he’d put an ice bag on the swelling and seek medical help.
    There are a couple of small redeeming moments, such as Keaton’s attempts to get rid of the vampish Thema Todd or his suggestion as to appropriate attire for a Greek dance, but it’s just not worth enduring the entire film to see them.
    If you’re a fan of bad movies, get drunk and watch “Speak Easily” with friends, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. But other than that, stick with the silents. Let them be 100% of what Buster Keaton is remembered for.

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