So You Won’t Squawk opens with a lot of expository dialogue, only not from Buster Keaton. For the first few minutes, Keaton’s treated like he’s in another silent. Except, of course, his actions are much more restrained. He’s goofing around while decorating… not too exciting.
Of course, once he does start talking, he immediately becomes personable.
Squawk is about a mobster using Keaton as his stand-in and the majority of the short is Keaton escaping these rival mobsters out to kill him. Everyone in the short besides Keaton is absolutely awful. He’s a little old to be playing the well-meaning simpleton and he never manages to sell it as an actual character, but he’s still got the charm.
Lord’s direction of actors and his composition are weak. His frequent reliance on sped-up film for every gag also hinders.
It’s tepid at best, but Keaton never embarrasses himself.
Directed by Del Lord; written by Elwood Ullman; director of photography, Benjamin H. Kline; edited by Art Seid; produced by Lord and Hugh McCollum; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring Buster Keaton (Eddie), Matt McHugh (Henchman) and Eddie Fetherston (Henchman).
The Scribe isn’t totally silent, but Buster Keaton is throughout. While he’s old (Keaton died soon after the film, an instructional short finished shooting), he and the filmmakers don’t make it obvious. There’s some stunt footage where it’s obviously not Keaton—flying around, hooked on a crane (it’s a construction safety film)—but some where it’s less clear, like the chase sequences. Sure, it’s not really Keaton, but if one just lets him or herself suspend disbelief a little more… it is.
Director Sebert is the one who makes The Scribe such a nice homage to Keaton. There are a lot of references to Keaton films, ones I imagine the construction workers forced to watch The Scribe did not appreciate.
It helps the production values are good. They film on a real construction site, no way around it, but the office bookends aren’t fake looking.
The Scribe’s a fine exercise.
Directed by John Sebert; written by Paul Sutherland and Clifford Braggins; director of photography, Miklós Lente; edited by Kenneth Heeley-Ray; music by Quartet Productions Limited; produced by Ann Heeley-Ray and Kenneth Heeley-Ray; released by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario.
Starring Buster Keaton.