Free And Easy (1930)
Genre: Comedy Musical
Starring: Buster Keaton (Go West; The Navigator), Anita Page (The Broadway Melody; Our Modern Maidens)
Directed By: Edward Sedgwick (The Cameraman; Speak Easily)
Overview: The beauty queen of Gopher City, Kansas, her mother and her manager go to Hollywood to make her famous. When she meets a star, she seems to have found herself a big break, but his intentions may be less than noble.
Acting: Before we get into the whole 'why did this movie suck' thing, I thought I'd take a moment and point the evil finger of blame all over Edward Sedgwick, who directed this brilliant man into the ground. Small consolation comes from knowing that he's dead now and can't make any more career-killing films. His record is full of films you've never heard of and overall I don't think he'll be long remembered. Good for that. The worst of the talkies, with musical numbers and morons stumbling about with their exaggerated methods. It's not a Silent, stop over-emphasizing.
Cinematography: The occasional yet rare quirky moments have Keaton's flair in them. Perhaps he was able to add some of his input. I don't think I care enough to find out. Just like Speak Easily, this is a film about a guy who ends up in a show, and though the choreography is good for one part in one scene, the sets are just plain... plain. Nothing HERE for fans either.
Script: Stinks. And on top of that some of the lines were so poorly timed that I wondered if the actors forgot their lines. More likely they were just saving film, thinking that that last scene's delivery was, "uh, good enough". Those are my favorite kinds of movies, where they could do it again and fix it, but choose to finish their day early. Yipee. Oh God, what a rediculous unfolding of this tale.
Plot: Woman goes to the Big city to become a Star. A once super-cool crazy film legend (Keaton) tags along as her manager (more like 'third wheel') while big handsome Hollywood hunk drools all over her. She really doesn't seem all that interested in the career, but the manager and the mother get thrust into roles. Clearly this was before the days of Actor's Unions, when people who managed to sneak onto sets were given jobs lickety-split. The twist is lame, the pervert star realizing that he's a letch after Mother smashes a vase over his head. Then we wait for Buster to finish his retarded musical numbers, seeing where the steady decline of his career began.
Mood: Remember watching Public Television during their marathon when you were a kid, at the point where they showed stupid musicals from the 50s and said things like "only through your contributions can we continue to show you wonderful programming like the film you are watching." Holy Christ, there was nothing else on, and at least that was colourized. This is that bad. Why are early talkies all effin' musicals!? Wait I shouldn't say things like that. I'm sorry about what I said about Public Television films. Colorization is a sin.
Overall Rating: 44% (At Least It Was Free... But It Sure Weren't Easy)
Aftertaste: Turns out that Buster Keaton's move to MGM studios cost him his entire reputation. In fact I think the quote was "utterly unemployable within five years". The reason why is very simple. They hired him as an actor, nothing more. I suppose they thought they knew best, but they forced him into roles that turned people off of him. No production, managing, direction or concept design, just acting. I guess it ended up being more like amputation than freedom.
Chaplin built a film studio that still prospers today. Keaton fizzled out. This is the reason young famous artists commit suicide. Christ.