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Speak Easily

Release date: August 13, 1932
Length: 82 minutes
A Buster Keaton Production
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Edward Sedgwick
Adaptation: Ralph Spence and Lawrence E. Johnson, from Footlights by
Clarence Budington Kelland
Dialogue Continuity: Ralph Spence and Laurence E. Johnson
Photography: Harold Wenstrom
Editor: William LeVanway
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Recording Engineer: Douglas Shearer
Costumes: Arthur Appell

Cast:
Buster Keaton: Professor Timoleon Zanders Post
Jimmy Durante: Jimmy
Ruth Selwyn: Pansy Peets
Thelma Todd: Eleanor Espere
Edward Brophy: Reno
Hedda Hopper: Mrs. Peets
Sidney Toler: Mr. Rayburn, the stage manager
William Pawley: Griffo
Henry Armetta: Tony
Sidney Bracy: Jenkins
Lawrence Grant: Dr. Bolton
Fred Kelsey: Process server

 

Timid Professor Timoleon Zanders Post, of Potts College, longs to have an adventure in his life, if only he had the gumption and the money to do it. Jenkins, his valet, sensing the Professor's loneliness, encourages him to seek out excitement. Moments later, a letter arrives stating that the Professor has inherited $750,000, giving him the chance to finally take a chance.

At the train station, Professor Post meets up with The Midnight Maids Company, a theatrical troupe headed for its next engagement. When the Professor's trunk is left on the station platform, utter confusion erupts as he intelligently discusses the situation with an uncomprehending porter. The entire troupe comes to his rescue as the departing train drags him and his trunk along the platform. Meanwhile, back at the college, Jenkins admits to Dr. Bolton that it was he who sent the Professor the phony inheritance letter, in the hopes of giving him a new lease on life. Both agree that the Professor is a very conservative man who would never do anything foolish with his life savings.

Arriving at the next town, the Professor absentmindedly misses his rail connection to Chicago, and winds up at the theatre where the Midnight Maids Company is performing a less than amateurish revue. The Professor becomes enchanted with sweet Pansy Peets, lead dancer, and is befriended by boisterous Jimmy, the troupe's second-rate comedian. He saves the troupe by paying off a $250 debt when a law official shows up backstage to put attachments on all the costumes and props. Jimmy, taking note of the Professor's bankroll, asks him to take charge of the show. The Professor decides to bring it straight to New York, mainly because his trunk was sent there.

In New York, he sets up T.Z. Post Theatrical Enterprises, and the first audition is by sultry Eleanor Espere, who demonstrates her desire to be lead dancer by stripping off her clothes and displaying her best assets. The show's new name "Speak Easily," is coined when Eleanor tries to describe her last employer to the puzzled Professor. During rehearsals, Eleanor attempts to seduce him by giving him the key to her apartment and inviting him up for a cup of tea. Once at her apartment, with the intention of getting him to pay her rent and then marry her, the two become outrageously drunk on "Thomas Collins," before wrestling each other and falling asleep in her bedroom. Next morning, the Professor tries to escape from the apartment through the bathroom window, while Eleanor tries to set him up by inviting a friend to pose as her enraged "brother." Eleanor and her "brother" get a real surprise when Jimmy rescues the Professor and foils her little scheme.

On opening night, with Jenkins in the audience, the show is in big financial trouble with law officials for unpaid bills. Jimmy warns the Professor to stay in New Jersey until the show opens, but he shows up anyway and causes a major disruption in the musical scenes. He gets caught in the fly ropes and executes comical acrobatics, to the delight of the hysterical audience, thinking it's all part of the show. The show is a smash hit, and a big Broadway producer offers $100,000 to take it over. Eleanor, angry that her career has been ruined, confronts an embracing Professor Post and Pansy. The now confident Professor sends the conniving woman on her way with a "Nuts to You!" — Janice Agnello