27 user 15 critic

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.


Edward Sedgwick


Clarence Budington Kelland (from the story by)


Complete credited cast:
Buster Keaton ... Prof. Post
Jimmy Durante ... James
Ruth Selwyn ... Pansy Peets
Thelma Todd ... Eleanor Espere
Hedda Hopper ... Mrs. Peets
William Pawley ... Griffo
Sidney Toler ... Stage Director
Lawrence Grant ... Dr. Bolton
Henry Armetta ... Tony
Edward Brophy ... Reno
Learn more

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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


Two lunatics for the price of one! See more »




Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Despite an onscreen copyright statement, a copyright was never registered; the movie is in the Public Domain. 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 »


James: A guy goes into a second hand store and he says to the man, "Is this a second hand store?" And the man says, "Yes." Then, the guy says, "Well, give me a second hand for my watch."
Professor Post: Was he furnish with a second hand?
James: [to Reno] It's too subtle. It went over his head like a trapeze act.
See more »


References Spite Marriage (1929) See more »


Oh! Susanna
(1846) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Heard when the Professor introduces Greek dancing to the girls
Whistled and later hummed by Buster Keaton
Played often in the score
See more »

User Reviews

A genuine horror movie.
26 March 2001 | by the red duchessSee all my reviews

What is the most harrowing movie ever made? The gynaecological nightmare of 'Cries and Whispers'? The acid psychodramas of Fassbinder? The discomfiting black comedy of 'Last House on the left? I'm sure for that portion of the film-loving public that tie their masts to the good ship Buster Keaton, there is only one answer - any one of his sound films.

I don't know what flayed my soul more poignantly in this movie - the grounding of Keaton's intricate and expansive physical art to humdrum slapstick; the painful hesitation of this master filmmaker with dialogue - not that he hasn't a lovely, comic voice, or that he can't make dialogue funny; it's just that the studio don't seem to have given him enough takes, and so he seems to be trying to remember his lines before he delivers, which only makes him - Keaton, not his character, look silly; or is it the humiliation of seeing Keaton caught up in a tawdry sex farce, when he has given us some of the richest accounts of romantic frustration in film?

No, I know what was most disturbing - having to watch Buster Keaton, cinema's greatest comedian, sit aside to observe Jimmy Durante doing his schtick. It is horrors such as this that get yer Dantes composing yer Infernos.

MGM seem to have got the curious idea that the best way to adapt Keaton to sound was to turn him into a Marx Brother, complete with verbal pedantry, elaborate, tedious 'clowning', shambolic slapstick, theatrical setting, triumph through chaos, and Thelma Todd. Keaton was just not that sort of comic, and where Groucho's malicious tongue and gleeful opportunism might just have made this plot work, Buster's socially inept professor can't, he is too studied and predictable.

What Buster needed was to be allowed experiment like Lang in 'M', or Rene Clair; he would never have tried to hold back the tide like Chaplin. When a film like 'The General' is alluded to - messing about with trains - the loss becomes even more apparent.

And the thing is, in patches amid the flat direction, the film isn't all that bad - there is an excellent jolt when a camera on the bus leaves Keaton alone at a railway station; and the denouement, if hardly original, is at least livelier than what went before. There is something almost endearing about the way Keaton slows down a plot that needs all the zip it can get.

There is a film in here about loneliness, emotionally paralysing order, the numbing effects of education etc., struggling to get out. The best way to appreciate this film is to watch not the narrative of Professor TZ Post, but of emasculated genius Buster Keaton, trapped in a prison of mediocrity, confounded by new technology, mocked by a malevolent fate (in this case the studio), retaining a stoical grace. Looked at like that, it becomes a kind of masterpiece.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

13 August 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Theaterprofessor See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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