The spectacle of a talent so hamstrung inspires both morbid fascination and acute embarrassment. Yet “Free and Easy” is not without its pleasures or historical interest in dispelling the myth that talkies per se were the source of Keaton’s decline. (His flat Midwestern delivery was actually well suited to his laconic affect.) The problem wasn’t a new technology — Keaton was eager to make talkies and, along with Norma Shearer, was the first MGM star to get a sound test — but rather a new studio.
March 21, 2014