SPITE MARRIAGE(director: Edward Sedgwick/Buster Keaton (uncredited); screenwriters: Robert E. Hopkins/Lew Lipton; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Frank Sullivan; cast: Buster Keaton (Elmer), Dorothy Sebastian (Trilby Drew), Edward Earle (Lionel Benmore), Leila Hyams (Ethyl Norcrosse), William Bechtel (Nussbaum), John Byron (Scarzi); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Buster Keaton/Edward Sedgwick; MGM; 1929-silent)
“Keaton’s last silent feature.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Keaton’s last silent feature is a minor work that redeems itself with a few brilliant set pieces. It was Keaton’s last fully realized display of his genius, as the inflexible MGM studio from now on kept him in a straight-jacket, refusing to listen to his creative suggestions, and within five years his film career was ruined. Edward Sedgwick (“Free and Easy”/ “Doughboys”/”The Cameraman”) does a serviceable job directing. MGM gives it a glossy look. Keaton gives it his athletic all.
Buster plays a pants presser who obsessively falls in love with a famous beautiful stage actress Trilby Drew (Dorothy Sebastian). He sees her every performance while wearing the fancy suits that his shop is dry cleaning and she spots him in the audience and thinks he’s a millionaire admirer. When her leading man, Lionel Benmore (Edward Earle), jilts her for a blonde admirer (Leila Hyams), Trilby marries Buster out of spite. The next morning when she realizes what she’s done and that her career could be ruined for marrying such a nobody, her manager (William Bechtel) arranges for the two to separate so she can divorce him on grounds of desertion. But circumstances bring them together on a yacht and they have a chance to make their marriage work.
The pleasures come from inventive set pieces such as: Buster somehow getting to act in Trilby’s serious Civil War play and ruining it by turning it into a slapstick comedy; Buster having a hard time putting-the-bride-to-bed, who is drunk; Buster escaping from a rumrunner’s boat (actually Buster’s real-life yacht) to land on the same yacht where Lionel and Trilby are on; and Buster spectacularly fighting the rum-runner and his gang to save Trilby after the cowardly Lionel flees the yacht leaving her alone.
Spite Marriage was a box office hit and was remade with Red Skelton in 1943 as “I Dood It.”
REVIEWED ON 9/1/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ