Friday, September 10, 2010

DVD: Lost Keaton -- September 10, 2010

After Buster Keaton left MGM, where he had been stifled in a series of movies that started out pretty good (The Cameraman, Spite Marriage) and wound up pretty bad (The Passionate Plumber, What! No Beer?), he signed up with Earle W Hammons' Educational Pictures, which had produced hundreds of short comedies over the years.

Educational gave Buster minuscule budgets but plenty of room to breathe. from 1934 to 1937, he made 16 two-reel comedies which I have been reading about for years, but had never seen till now. Most of the references were disparaging, but I still wanted to see the movies. They turned out to be enjoyable, far better than his Columbia shorts. These movies reminded me of Roscoe Arbuckle's Comique shorts, which featured Buster.

Two of the films, "Palooka from Paducah" and "Love Nest on Wheels," were hillbilly stories which featured members of the Keaton family. "Palooka" had his mother Myra, his sister Louise, and his dad, Joe. Joe had trouble with the dialogue. Myra and Louise had deadpans as firm as Buster. Myra was smoking a pipe, as she did in real life. "Love Nest" had Myra, Louise, and Buster's little brother, Harry, who had once been known as "Jingles."

Charles Lamont directed most of the movies, and he seemed to know how to stay out of Buster's way and let him work. Mack Sennett directed "The Timid Young Man," but I didn't see anything of his style except for a shot of Lona Andre posing in a bathing suit.

"One Run Elmer" had a baseball game that included many of the tricks he used in charity games. "Tars and Stripes" was shot on location on a naval base in San Diego. "Grand Slam Opera" was my favorite, including lots of dancing and a broom fight straight from the Three Keatons in vaudeville.

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