Spite Marriage (1929)
Genre: Silent Comedy
Starring: Buster Keaton (Battling Butler, The General) Dorothy Sebastian
Directed By: Edward Sedgewick
Overview: A regular guy, fallen for a star of the stage, is victim to her jealous rage when she proposes marriage to him, in hopes of getting even with another suitor.
Acting: The role that Keaton plays in this is reminiscent of The Saphead, his first feature film, in that it's obvious that he is greatly hindered by the director and the MGM Studios that hired him on. He's a loser, a fumbler, an average guy. This is nothing strange for Buster, he's used to playing that kind of role, it's even expected, but somewhere along the way there's just a hint of 'condescending doormat' about him that never really existed before. Buster's great, and I've grown to love him ages ago, but just remember that this is him with reins on.
Cinematography: Yes, nice hotel rooms. Ok, good stage, nice set, interesting boat, many scenes and costumes to keep us entertained, but clearly the most important feature was not the visuals and the crazy stunts... or perhaps it was and they just failed.
Script: Buster's last silent film does have a few interesting moments in the script department, and after more than a decade of doing silent film, it's clear that everyone's figured out how many intertitles are needed to make it work and at what point you need to stop. Again not the reason for seeing this, but it's nice that there's not a lot of dialogue.
Plot: The story overall is solid, yet we're reminded of the reason why Buster's career began to degrade right at this point. Too little was open for his input and it seems that the writers and directors just went ahead in their 'mass-production' kind of way without fleshing things out enough. The story of a man trapped in a marriage of spite as he deals with his estranged wife's drunken jealous fits until she leaves him may seem a little depressing, but Buster manages to keep it light, though I did wonder why she was made out to be so completely detestable.
Mood: No matter how many people stick their fingers in him, Buster still shines enough to prove them all wrong. He went down fighting, you could say. We have a common-man's naiveté clashing with high-society prissiness. In the end the tale is one about decency, and as expected Buster's the most decent of the bunch, not to mention stunty!
Aww, look he's a confederate soldier, how... slave-lovin' quaint.
Overall Rating: 78% (Well, Don't See It On MY Account!)
Aftertaste: As we approach the end of his prestigious career, his last silent film, the taste is bittersweet. The knowledge that this MGM Studios film is responsible for making our beloved legendary stuntman a laughing stock rests heavily on my soul,... Imagine if Buster had started his own studio like Chaplin did? Where would we be now?
Well there'd be different movies in the world that's where we'd be, and certainly more Keaton talkies, that's for sure.