Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silent Sundays: Spite Marriage (1929)

“Elmer soon learned that supporting a woman in a fit of jealousy is all in a wifetime.”

            By 1929 sound films were the norm but several silent stars were hesitant to make their talkie debut. The Great Garbo did not make her first talking appearance until 1930 with Anna Christie. Iconic film comedian Buster Keaton made his last silent film in 1929 called Spite Marriage. While some reviewers say that Spite Marriage is good but not one of Keaton’s best due to his signing at MGM I feel it was a good send off to the great comedian’s silent career with plenty of slapstick humor and one of the funniest drunk scenes I have ever seen in a film.
            Keaton plays a regular guy named Elmer. He is a dry cleaner at times during the day when he is not following the object of his (adorable) desire stage actress Trilby Drew (Dorothy Sebastian). During the days he finds where she is with a crowd of people and stand with them just to get a chance to be near her. By night for the past four weeks Elmer has been watching Trilby’s performance in a play. The entire cast and crew knows he is Trilby’s admirer. One night while waiting outside, Trilby spots Elmer and grabs onto him. She is trying to make her old boyfriend Lionel jealous that she is with someone else since he is with another woman. Trilby thought Lionel loved her and would ask her to marry him and now she is very upset that he is seeing someone else. Trilby walks with Elmer from the stage door to her car and leaves him standing alone.
            The next night Elmer gets backstage. One of the cast members is wanted by the police. He sees Elmer and hands him the part. This is Elmer’s lucky break because the man whose part he takes gets to kiss the leading lady. Before he even gets on stage Elmer is fumbling all over the place trying to set his fake beard and eyebrows up which come out all thick and weird. Once on stage he literally brings everything crashing down turning the play from a drama to a comedy. Just as Elmer is about to kiss the love of his life the backdrops fall right on top of them. The entire crew comes after him when the performance is over but luckily he escapes.
             Trilby is greatly upset with the news that Lionel is marrying the other girl. To spite him she finds Elmer knowing that he worships the ground she walks on and marries him. Trilby is not happy at all with what she has done so to forget her troubles she takes Elmer out. At the restaurant she runs into Lionel and his new wife. Trilby swigs down a couple of glasses of champagne very quickly giving her some false courage to go over to Lionel and start yelling at him. Elmer takes her back to the hotel where his wife passes out cold on the floor. As hard as he tries he cannot seem to pick Trilby up correctly and put her on the bed.
            In morning Trilby realizes her mistake. Elmer had gone out that morning to get her a stuffed animal to make her feel better but when he gets back Trilby’s manager and Lionel are there and the manager offers to pay him to go away so she can divorce him for desertion. Outside the hotel Elmer punches Lionel, runs away, and hitches a ride on a speeding car. Unfortunately the car is a getaway car full of robbers. When they stop at the peer they take poor Elmer with them so he cannot snitch on them.
            Out on the high seas Elmer gets thrown overboard then luckily gets picked up by a yacht. He is given a job on the yacht which just so happens to be carrying Trilby and Lionel. A fire breaks out in the engine room and everyone flees the boat, well, everyone except Trilby who was pushed over by a frantic Lionel trying to save his own skin and Elmer. More trouble finds the couple when a rough crew from another boat boards the yacht and tries to take over. Elmer keeps Trilby a secret for some time but she is found out by the bad captain. The captain tries to have his way with Trilby but Elmer knocks him. Elmer hysterically goes through all the crew members hitting them on their heads and knocking them out. Before Trilby can get the captain tied up he wakes up and takes her up on deck. Elmer epically battles with the captain nearly going overboard a few times. But Elmer is a gallant southerner (as he puts it) and saves the day.
            When Elmer and Trilby arrive back the hotel he goes to leave but she tells him not to go since she saw that he truly loves her when he fought off the captain who was twice as big as he was.
            There are so many hysterical and cute scenes in this film. The scene after Trilby passes out drunk and Elmer tries to get her into bed is one of my all time favorite scenes now. I was crying from laughing it was so funny. It is hard to explain and I do not want to ruin it but trust me it is so good. I think I died laughing because Buster Keaton just manhandles Dorothy Sebastian! Another scene I liked is when Elmer goes on stage. Keaton played this wonderfully his character had no idea what he was doing but he just had a one track mind to kiss Trilby and that was all that mattered.
            Buster Keaton was incredible. The more I see of him the more I adore him. What I love most about him is that he is so sweet and gentle and adorable with his comedy. You feel bad for him when Trilby uses him but he just takes it really and goes along with it. I could not get over how adorable the scene was when he brings the stuffed animal to Trilby, oh my god it was too much cuteness!
            This was the first time I had ever seen Dorothy Sebastian in a film before this I had only ever seen her in photographs. I liked her I thought she was very good. I could not get over how she was just manhandled in this film! Like seriously she was manhandled to hilarity when Trilby was passed out drunk and then at the end on the yacht she gets thrown all over the place. I give Sebastian so much credit what she had to go through could not have been easy at all and she made it all look effortless.
            Some reviewers will say that Spite Marriage is not one of Buster Keaton’s best films. To me I do not think a Buster Keaton film can ever be bad he was such a good performer that you almost do not even need to really pay attention to the story. Spite Marriage is a very cute and very funny silent film.
            It is available to view on Youtube.