(director: Edward Sedgwick; screenwriters: Richard Schayer/Robert E. Hopkin/based on the stage comedy by Charles W. Bell and Mark Swan; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: William LeVanway; cast: Buster Keaton (Reginald Irving), Charlotte Greenwood (Polly Hathaway), Reginald Denny (Jeffrey Hayward), Cliff Edwards (Bellhop), Dorothy Christy (Angelica Embrey), Joan Peers (Nita Leslie), Sally Eilers (Virginia Embrey), Natalie Moorhead (Leila Crofton), Edward Brophy (Detective), Walter Merrill (Frederick Leslie), Sidney Bracey (Butler); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Buster Keaton; Kino; 1931)

“A terrible film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Buster Keaton is stuck in this plodding stagey Broadway farce, based on the 1917 stage comedy by Charles W. Bell and Mark Swan. Director Edward Sedgwick (“The Cameraman”/”Spite Marriage”/”A Southern Yankee”)keeps things mediocre and unfunny.

Reginald Irving (Buster Keaton) is a sign-tagger hit when walking on the road by a car driven by socialite Jeffrey Hayward (Reginald Denny), who takes the vic to the nearby house of the snobbish millionaire Angelica Embrey (Dorothy Christy) for first-aid. The inane plot revolves around Jeffrey wanting to marry Angelica’s younger sister Virginia (Sally Eilers), who won’t marry him until her fussy older sister weds. Knowing Angelica is looking for a daring ladies man who can dominate her, Jeffrey schemes to make the timid virginal Reginald into this bold Romeo to sweep Angelica off her feet. Angelica desires a man who is unpredictable and attracts many women, but someone who will fall in love only with her. When not quite convinced her reserved house guest Reginald is her dream man, Jeffrey cooks up a scheme that has local reporter Polly Hathaway (Charlotte Greenwood) teaching the socially awkward dude in a seaside hotel the art of seduction. The idea is for Jeffrey to bring Angelica to the room rented by the two under an assumed name and find Reginald and Polly in a compromising position. But in the ensuing mix-up Reginald is instead with Nita Leslie ( Joan Peers), who is the wife of Jeffrey’s gun-toting jealous friend Frederick (Walter Merrill). Screwball comedy is derived from the mix-up, with Reginald eventually applying Polly’s aggressive lovemaking approach on Angelica and winning her over.

It was hard to sit through such a witless narrative and watch Buster’s comedy antics fail in every scene. This was a terrible film, whereby Buster had no answers for why his sight gags, lame verbal retorts and slapstick never registered like they once did in the silents. The answer might be to blame it on MGM for messing with their star and crippling his act.