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Grand Slam Opera (1936)

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Elmer Butts is a contestant in a radio amateur hour show hoping to win the first price... by dancing and juggling!

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Title: Grand Slam Opera (1936)

Grand Slam Opera (1936) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Elmer Butts
Diana Lewis ...
The Girl Downstairs
Harold Goodwin ...
Band Leader
John Ince ...
Col. Crowe
Melrose Coakley
Bud Jamison ...
Arizona Sheriff
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Storyline

Elmer Butts is a contestant in a radio amateur hour show hoping to win the first price... by dancing and juggling!

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Details

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Release Date:

21 February 1936 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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A grand slam
14 September 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This 1936 short from Educational Pictures is often held up as an example that Buster Keaton, now being given a chance to write his own material again, still had it in the sound era. Well it should be, not just because just about every joke and sequence lands dead-on and hilariously, but because the whole two-reeler is a kind of comic riff on sound itself.

The wonderful "So Long Elmer" song parody at the start, the sequence of Elmer keeping the girl downstairs (who is involved in a perfectly-developed running-gag) awake with his practicing, his impromptu dance to the medley, his wonderfully non-radio-appropriate novelty acts, and his disruption of the orchestra, all depend on and relate to sound in order to work. It's appropriate that the first talkie short that Keaton really had control over should be a kind of meditation in comedy form on sound itself, not to mention set around a radio station (and the satire of Major Bowes is dead-on without being too much).

Buster himself is great. He style-changing dance is truly impressive and athletic as well as being funny, and one-hundred per-cent physical and non-verbal while still one-hundred per-cent dependent on the sound medium to work. Keaton said in interviews that most early talkies bothered him because there was unnecessary talking -- characters should speak to each other when they have something to say. He puts that principle into effect here and appropriately says nothing, but still carries the scene off completely, while alone in his room, but delivers his dialogue with panache as well. I got a laugh from his delivery alone when he assures the announcer "I made sure of that!" after being asked if his prop whiskey bottle was empty. His problem was never that he couldn't deliver dialogue well. Of course, there are visual gags too, such as when Diana Lewis disappears behind the bus, that bear Keaton's hallmark completely.

"Grand Slam Opera" is really satisfyingly funny all the way through, and it has that unmistakable and unique eccentricity of spirit found in many of Keaton's silent's. That's what really makes his work special, and here it is translated into a sound-dependent style of film-making in a way that really works, over and over again.


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