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As happened to so many silent film stars, the sound era was not kind to Buster Keaton. Edward Sedgwick directed Keaton’s first silent film, Free and Easy. Keaton is shepherding small-town beauty queen Anita Page and her loud domineering mother Trixie Friganza to Hollywood to make Page a big star. Of course, Keaton is a bumbling fool. There they run into screen idol Robert Montgomery who takes a liking to Page, maybe too much of a liking. Keaton loves her too of course but he’s old and bumbling and has no chance.

So the plot is rudimentary. Eventually, Keaton himself becomes the big star because he can fall and get beat up and look funny. So OK. But there’s not much too this film. Keaton doesn’t have nearly enough to do and this thing is bloated with at least 15 minutes of totally pointless song and dance numbers that go on forever and aren’t funny. And the sad clown makeup on Keaton, I mean really? Wow, thanks for assuming the audience is made up of morons who can’t read Keaton’s own facial expressions. It’s not like he didn’t become a gigantic star based in large part on those expressions. It’s an interesting early film about how in love Hollywood already was with itself and this is full of referencing various stars, etc. But it’s a lame film. Also turns out Keaton has one flat midwestern accent.

4/10

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