When a great film star accepts an academy award, he reflects on a comedian he worked with in the early film days, owing his success to him, not realizing that man is now destitute, watching the show on TV from a barstool.
Kelsey Dutton once was a great name of silent comedies. But, for all his talent, sound made him redundant a quarter century before. Now he is no more than a face in the crowd. And a sad one at that! At the moment, Kelsey finds himself in a bar where he is brooding over a beer. The TV is on for both Barney, the barman, and Selma, a movie fan, want to see a program airing the Academy Awards ceremony. Which they do, not without being disturbed by a group of noisy fellows. At a time appears on the screen the famed director Arthur Vail, who takes advantage of his being presented the statuette to pay homage to a forgotten actor without whom he would not be recognized as he is tonight. An amazing performer by the name of... Kelsey Dutton. Written by
Screen Directors Playhouse: The Silent Partner (1955)
*** (out of 4)
Extremely well-made story about a group of strangers who gather in a small bar where they plan on watching the Academy Awards. The host (Bob Hope) of the show is giving a Lifetime Achievement award to a man (Joe E. Brown) who thanks a silent partner who helped him make great movies. What no one knows is that this silent partner (Buster Keaton) just happens to be in the bar. If you're a fan of silent movies then this here is a must-see as we get one terrific performance after another but what makes the film so memorable is that it's clearly a tribute to all the silent stars who were forgotten by the time this thing was released to TV. The film re-enacts two silent movies and this is where Keaton gets to do his physical type of comedy that he was so loved for. Keaton was nearly 60-years-old when he did this movie so when we see the silent clips there's no question he's not as fast on his feet but I think the effort warrants an A+ and there's no question he still has that wonderful timing. I thought the first film where we see how the character got his start in the pictures was extremely funny. The second bit wasn't that good but it was still great seeing Keaton in another silent picture. The supporting cast includes Zasu Pitts in a very good performance playing a movie fan in the bar who doesn't recognize the famous face next to her. Bob Hope plays himself and we get Percy Helton, Jack Elam, Evelyn Ankers and 'Snub' Pollard in the cast. Joe E. Brown doesn't have the biggest part but it was great seeing him in the film. Being able to see all these famous names, many from the silent era, together again is certainly worth sitting through the 27-minutes. THE SILENT PARTNER was certainly a love letter to those pre-sound days and when you consider that the majority of the cast, including director Marshall, were involved in those days it's no wonder this film turned out so well.
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