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Speak Easily (1932)

Passed | | Comedy | 13 August 1932 (USA)
A timid professor inherits a large sum of money and decides to fund a terrible musical.



(from the story by), (dialogue continuity) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Ruth Selwyn ...
Pansy Peets
Eleanor Espere
Mrs. Peets
William Pawley ...
Stage Director
Dr. Bolton


Naive, bookish Professor Post (of Potts College) inherits a huge amount of money and decides that now he can afford to go out and enjoy life. He falls for a dancer in a bad stage show, and with his new money decides to buy the show and take it to Broadway. Will the Professor prove too nice to succeed in show business? Or will he triumph over bill-collectors, critics, and sexy vamp Eleanor Espere? Written by Ken Yousten <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Laugh Riot. See more »




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 August 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Theaterprofessor  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) | (2005 DVD release)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The failure of the producer to properly register and copyright this film, resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »


While Professor Post (Buster Keaton) is dragged by the train, clutching his luggage, his hat flies off and he is unable to grab it. In the next shot, his hat is once again firmly on his head. See more »


Professor Post: Now that is authentic... but it would be much more effective if you were in the nude.
See more »


Featured in Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow (1987) See more »


Can Broadway Do Without Me?
(1929) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Durante
Performed by Jimmy Durante
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Struggling With Sound
6 February 2014 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

The greatest film comedian of all time? Well, if he had made better sound films than this, I think that would have been indisputable. Or as his partner here, one Jimmy Durante, may have put it, "indispicable."

Buster Keaton's transition to sound went over well at the box office. He had some of his biggest hits in talkies, including this one. But watching "Speak Easily" makes you wonder why. It doesn't move like classic Buster. It doesn't make you laugh like classic Buster. It just gives you Buster, playing a fish out of water - too convincingly.

As Professor Post, Buster is urged to leave his lonely sinecure teaching the classics at a fancy college and "go out and find life." Led to believe he has just inherited $750,000, he does so, and meets a troupe of traveling showpeople. Falling in love with one, Pansy Peets (Ruth Selwyn), he decides to take them to Broadway on his dime. Only he doesn't really have as many dimes as he thinks.

There are actually three comedy legends in this film. In addition to Durante, who is the troupe's combination comic and piano player and pretty good here with his miles-of-malaprops-a-minute manner, you have Thelma Todd. People who talk about Buster's tragically curtailed career should take stock of Todd, who died at 29 just as she was poised to take off in an era of funny women. She shows a lot of her realized potential here, as a gold-plated vamp who latches onto Buster when she learns he is putting on the show.

"Have you ever thought seriously of marriage?" she asks Professor Post.

"Yes, that's why I'm single," he replies.

There is also a sequence where Todd's character attempts to blackmail Post by having him caught out in his bedroom, something that could really happen back in the 1930s. This is set up by a beautiful two-hand drunk scene (just watch Todd's reaction after gulping Buster's cocktail!) before moving on to a variation of a routine Buster did many times, trying to carry an unconscious woman to bed, before Durante shows up to give the sequence a terrific capper. The scene is so good it belongs in a much better movie.

Durante isn't overbearingly antic here, but he has little to do except tell lousy jokes and string along the willing professor (whom he calls "that guy with the face") about his dog-and-pony show's prospects. Selwyn's a weak female lead, even with a fourth Hollywood legend, gossip-page pioneer Hedda Hopper, playing her overprotective mother.

Buster is at the center of what's wrong. He's not convincing as a professor, and his comedy mannerisms tend to be slow and obvious. It's been said he struggled in the sound era when MGM tried to make him play sad and sympathetic. There's some of that here (in the beginning Post is warned his lonely condition may drive him to suicide) but also a tentative quality to his line readings, long pauses and repetitious head bobs that may be his famous drinking problem showing up on screen or else just difficulty managing the different demands of talkie comedy.

The film limps along, an occasional funny line or good physical comedy bit standing out all the more for the tedium around it, until reaching an awful finale where the show makes its Broadway debut with assorted mayhem both on- and offstage. Every tired gimmick is trotted out, while Buster overplays Post's idiocy for the sake of some lame slapstick. It's a real wince-producing conclusion that leaves a more sour aftertaste than "Speak Easily" deserves.

People who want to see the worst of Buster will be disappointed with "Speak Easily," though not nearly as much as those who come to it wanting to see more of why he was so great.

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