Free and Easy (1930 film)
- For the 1941 MGM film of the same name, see Free and Easy (1941 film).
|Free and Easy|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Edward Sedgwick|
|Produced by||Buster Keaton|
|Written by||Richard Schayer (scenario)|
Paul Dickey (adaptation)
Al Boasberg (dialogue)
|Music by||Fred E. Ahlert|
William Axt (foreign vers.)
|Edited by||William LeVanway|
When small-town girl Elvira Plunkett (Anita Page) wins a contest that sends her to Hollywood for a screen test at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), she is accompanied by her overbearing mother (Trixie Friganza) and Elmer J. Butts (Buster Keaton), a gas-station attendant who goes along as Elvira's manager. Elmer is secretly in love with Elvira, but on the train they meet MGM contract actor Larry Mitchell (Robert Montgomery), who falls for her as well, and has the connections to make her a star.
In Hollywood, Elmer manages to bungle his way through numerous films being shot on the MGM lot, disrupting production. When given a screen test, he can't manage to say his one line correctly. Despite this, both he and Elvira's mother are given film contracts, and appear in a comic opera together. Elmer want to tell Elvira that he loves her, but hints at it in such a way that she mistakes it for advice on how to tell Larry that she loves him.
Free and Easy, whose working title was "On the Set", was Buster Keaton's first starring role in a film shot for sound – he had appeared in MGM's talking The Hollywood Revue of 1929, but did not speak. As with his previous film for MGM, Spite Marriage, production on Free and Easy was largely out of Keaton's hands.
The film was used as a way to showcase MGM's many stars and filmmakers and there are many cameos throughout of various actors and directors under contract to MGM at the time, including Cecil B. DeMille and Lionel Barrymore. The film was shot in French-, German- and Spanish-language versions – the Spanish one was called Estrellados – with Keaton speaking his dialogue phonetically, but the 1931 release in France had French-language intertitles replacing the English dialogue.
Contemporary reviews were mixed, with The New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall stating that Keaton's "audible performance is just as funny as his antics in mute offerings," while Robert E. Sherwood in The Film Daily wrote that, "Buster Keaton, trying to imitate a standard musical comedy clown, is no longer Buster Keaton and no longer funny." Nonetheless, Free and Easy was a bigger hit than the majority of Keaton's silent films.
- "Music" on the Turner Classic Movie website
- Cady, Brian. "Free and Easy (1930)" (article) on the Turner Classic Movie website
- Erickson, Hal. [www.allmovie.com/movie/free-and-easy-v18547 "Synopsis"] on the AllMovie website
- "Notes" on the Turner Classic Movies website
- "Buster Keaton Talks", New York Times (April 19, 1930)
- DVD Review Movie Metropolis on the Turner Classic Movie website (2004)
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