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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Speak Easily (1932)



Reviews and Comments

The worst professional decision Buster Keaton ever made was signing a contract with MGM at the close of the silent era. Unlike many silent stars, Keaton had no trouble with the "talkie" medium -- he had a great baritone voice and as much vocal talent as physical -- but MGM didn't know what to do with him. The studio never gave him the creative control he thrived with in the silent era. Instead, they kept shackling him to cheapie screwball comedies, and the writers didn't know how to write for him.

Speak Easily is one of a few trial pairings of Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante. The match-up had great potential; one can imagine the expressive Durante playing to the funniest straight man in history. But it never came to fruition. Rather than sharing the spotlight, Keaton and Durante took turns with it, and consequently they never built up the chemistry with each other they likely could have.

Nonetheless, despite some absymally horrid writing in the narrative scenes and assuming selective amnesia concerning Keaton's brilliant work in silent film, Speak Easily is pretty amusing. Usually it's no more than that, but Keaton's literally-minded professor character has some hilarious moments.