Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spite Marriage (Edward Sedgwick) **

Edward Sedgwick

Cast: Buster Keaton, Dorothy Sebastian, Edward Earle, Leila Hyams

Background: Buster Keaton's recent films (particularly The General) had performed poorly at the box office and his distributor (United Artist) stripped some of his creative freedom, insisting on a production manager. He decided to switch to a new studio and signed for MGM.

Story: Buster is in love with stage star Trilby Drew (Sebastian), so much that he sees her show every night. When Trilby is dumped by fellow actor Lionel Benmore (Edward Earle), she decides to marry Buster (who she thinks is a millionaire) out of spite.

Thoughts: This one contains all of Buster's flaws from his previous films. The problem is it doesn't contain nearly enough of the brilliant comic bits that usually balance that out. The biggest flaw once again is that Buster plays a thoroughly unlikable character. He's kind of a jerk, actually. When we first see him, he's ruining the stage show for people who have already seen it. And he keeps his trademark stonefaced expression throughout the movie, making it hard to really care that he's being mistreated by his wife. Speaking of his wife, Sebastian plays leading lady that is just downright mean for the entire film, yet we're somehow supposed to root for them as a couple. There have been similar problems many of Buster's previous films, but there's usually memorable comedy to make you forget. All we have here is an amusing scene where Buster tries to put his drunk wife to bed, and a manic sequence on a boat where they try to dodge some villains (the best bit is the repeated trick where Buster hits a villain over the head with a bottle). That's not nearly enough to save this weak story.

Postscript: Despite this being a success, MGM began to exert even more control over Buster's movies during the transition to sound and his career as a leading man was over by the mid-30s.

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