Free and Easy (1930)

By common consent The Cameraman is the last truly great Buster Keaton film, while Spite Marriage can be seen as the beginning of the end for him but I’d say it’s still about half a really good film. Having seen both of them years ago I decided to go straight to Free and Easy, the third feature here and Buster’s less-than-auspicious talkie debut; if I was apprehensive about The Saphead I was even more so about this. Keaton’s OK but the material—which has him as the hapless manager of a starlet from the sticks en route to Hollywood, where he must contend with the studio system and the starlet’s mother—gives him even fewer shining opportunities. By the end Keaton’s sad clown makeup may inspire sympathy, but you’ll be weeping for Keaton himself rather than the character. The DVD comes with a new, quite condemnatory short doco by Brownlow looking at Keaton’s MGM period. It’s good if you haven’t seen the older Hard Act to Follow; if someone would put that on DVD, it’d be a must-have.

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