Now we're just getting nit-picky....
Slightly blurred:(c) 2021 Jim Middleton, The Animating Apothecary
A case study in Esperanto, so to speak -
Rough lip synch test:
Test with colors and minor edits:
In the beginning was Eadweard Muybridge and his little horsey --
But the horsey was missing something --
And the horsey wanted to have other friends and have a dance party -
Question: 28 + 47 (show your process)
I pour a cup of coffee, drink half, add 50 to 28 and get 78.
Then I have another third of a cup of coffee, subtract 3 from 78, because 47 is 3 less than 50, and get 75, then I finish the coffee, wondering how much I had of a third of a half, but feel satisfied that I completed a whole cup of coffee, which leaves me with zero coffee.
Then I get more coffee. And then my cup is 100% coffee and that makes me smile.
Otherwise, I'd add 7 to the 8, get 15, carry the one and make the two a three, add it to the four and get seven.
Then I think I should have written it all down because now I have a 7 and a 15 and I'm carrying a 3 that is really a 2,
Then I think I'm 9 years to 75, and doggone it, where the heck did I put that cup of coffee!?!?!?
Almost halfway there - some progress GIFs....
And, taxing the limitations of the old FLASH CS6 software - note to self: don't render the layer filter effects "live" - render out as jpgs and then reimport to Flash once the effect is in place...
Open Mike Night - for eventual lip synch animation project
Onstage - Reading from a phone book...finger moves down page -
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAA ... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”
“Oh, it’s left to right... got it...
“Oh, I get it - it’s alphabetical.”
(back to reading from phone book)
“Phone repair - phone repair... F,O, N...”
(hears someone in audience)
“P ... P ... P”
(Hears someone else)
“OK, Yer .... Y....”
(gets corrected again)
“U? You? No? Me? Me-ology?”
(Frustrated and confused now)
“But it’s my phone... see?”
(produces a Pop Tart from his back pocket)
“Wait, this is a pop tart.”
(business while he examines the floppy plasticized foil.)
“You know, I remember when you had a choice - frosted or unfrosted. We were poor. Imagine, being too poor for frosted pop tars. We’d get the unfrosted, and then just smear some library paste on our tongue.”
“Ah memories - kindergarten in retention, in the corner, with my jar of library paste, dreaming of peanut butter...”
“What? Oh, yeah, I was kicked in the head. Wait a minute... I was kicked in the head by a horse, horses have hooves, hooves make library paste... I was having my revenge on horses in kindergarten. Glad I worked that subconscious pressure out of my system early.”
(looks at his pop tart)
“And now I have a broken pop tart.” (Plays with floppy plastic foil pack again)
(An idea! Back to phone book)
“Broken pop tarts... B ...B ... B ...”
“You know, there’s only one thing to do with a broken pop tart...” (eats half of it and hands out the other broken half to an audience member)
“Thank you and good night! I have to go find my phone now.”
Panamama, you’re my girl
Panamama, I been around this world
You’re the only girl I see
Panamama, you got my heart
Had it thumpin’ n’ bumpin right from the start
You’re the only girl for me
Lord help me Panamama
There’s nothing I can do
As much as I love my Panamama
To the sea I must be true
If you drown me, Panamama,
My voice will ring from port to port
‘Neath the waves that hold my breath.
Panamama, my sea bound shanty
Panamama, my whirl’d spun world
You’re the sea that I can see.
My sea bound shanty town
(c) 2021 John Gage Compositions
Bernie Madoff, second most notorious con man and Ponzi schemer, is dead at 82. FOX blames immigration at the southern US border. "I bet he died from the CoVid vaccine, because everyone knows a prison automatically grants you herd immunity," said Tucker Carlson.
Prince Phillip is dead at 99. FOX news is asking when the Queen plans to remarry. "Being queen is no job for a woman, especially a single one," quipped Tucker Carlson. Sean Hannity asked whether a widowed Queen Elizabeth II automatically becomes Queen Elizabeth I. "It just makes sense, since she's on her own now.," he explained to his listeners.
At times, portions of the final section of Speak Easily seem to predict the climax of A Night at the Opera, with Keaton swinging from the rafters across the stage. Originally, it ran like this:
The class went nuts. Armetta was out! OUT! and Keaton needed to have a tighter focus and not drag out his time on the diorama. In addition, an editing continuity had them rerunning the sequence where he stumbles from the catwalk, apparently on the right side of the stage, and then swings onto the stage from the left. Using the miracle of digital editing, that was adjusted as well. And who puts a fade out in the middle of a comedy climax!?!?
And whoosh! It is over at last.
While 20:20 hindsight is always an easy thing, we cannot fault everyone involved in the production of Speak Easily with its shortcomings, but we can use it as an exercise on how not to put together a comedy. By today's tastes, Speak Easily doesn't hold up very well, but we must remember that in its 1932 release, it made more money than any of Keaton's silent films ever did. So like Pixar and its Cars series, MGM felt it was making the right decisions based on what truly mattered to Louis B. and Irving T.
1932 - 8 minutes, 2 seconds
2021 - 6 minutes, 25 seconds
The complete, entire original film - 81 minutes
The class edit project final length - 72 minutes
Next we're going to work on either Intolerance or Gone with the Wind. Or perhaps invest in a popcorn machine.
Complete assembly of the Speak Easily "Redux" is on archive.org --
And so it begins - the show starts, Keaton reels from a sincere kiss and things start falling apart. A face in the crowd is targeted as someone really enjoying the show. At first, we all thought it was the university butler in attendance at opening night, but it is actually one of the show's backers. It seemed odd to introduce him so late in the proceedings.
Keaton has a nice slide onto the stage, Durante does one of his specialty songs (which he was still doing on the Mike Douglas Show in the 1960s), and Thelma Todd gets covered in bleached corn flakes. The sequence doesn't really build, but there it is:
Nobody really cared for Henry Armetta here, either. I told them to check out the Marx Brothers' The Big Store someday, where the producers thought they needed a "funny Italian" (apparently Chico wasn't a comedian to them by that time in his MGM career). Regardless, he was trimmed.
In 1932 - 8 minutes, 22 seconds.
2021 - 6 minutes, 58 seconds
Speak Easily has been building up to this point. Unlike A Night at the Opera three years later, the show is supposed to go on, and we're supposed to hope for the best with this collection of wandering vaudevillians and a befuddled professor.
Cross your fingers!
The original ran thusly:
And the project produced this version:
1932 - 6 minutes, 35 seconds
2021 - 5 minutes, 56 seconds
The sequence begins with a Durante caricature with his nose protruding downward at a specific angle. It comes at a reel change, so it is extended by Durante's laugh over the image. Now think how Keaton was positioned in the shot immediately preceding this one. I think a fade in/out transition was chosen instead of a lap dissolve for a reason.
Of course it leads to a possible compromising situation, and the troupe has now learned the truth behind the professor's inheritance, so it's time for a nice switcheroo. And a few trims, because by now everyone was on a roll.
Appendix - here are the screen shots of the end of sequence 7 and the start of sequence 8, with a simulated midpoint of a slow lap dissolve of the two, had the transition been performed in that manner -
Considering the chemistry that Thelma Todd had with the Marx Brothers in Horsefeathers, also from 1932, it is interesting to compare her scenes with Keaton with those of Groucho. Chico, and even Zeppo. It doesn't help that this is a drinking scene, and perhaps something other than tea had been placed in the decanters. Todd's reactions are great, nonetheless, if somewhat lost in the medium shots. And Spite Marriage is used again for material, however briefly, in getting her to stand up near the end.
What rhythm the scene has is broken with the extended insert of the cuckoo clock, no matter how clever the swirling effect, and the class agreed that one clumsy backflip over the sofa was quite enough. So out came the scissors, and everyone had fun resizing those master shots!
The rehearsal is centered around Durante and Toler, and somewhere along the line, someone (possibly the film's editor) noticed that the film's star was missing. Thus the insert shots appear of Keaton, with a neutral background, looking interested in the goings on and saying nothing, so when he does appear near the end we get the impression he has been in the rehearsal room the entire time. The "Singing in the Rain" gag is still cute, and was featured in the compilation film, That's Entertainment (1976).
Of course we had to snip here, and there:
In 1932, it ran 6 minutes, 30 seconds.
In 2021, 5 minutes, 59 seconds.
Despite Durante's brash presence, he brings the picture a splash of welcome energy with a bit of his anthem, "Can Broadway Do Without Me?" and his march through the hallway to his new business office. This is followed by a bit of stock footage pulled from King Vidor's 1928 masterpiece, The Crowd. The rest of the scene is dominated by Sidney Toler, known at the time as a Broadway comic actor, but destined to be remembered for his later portrayal of Charlie Chan at 20th Century Fox and Monogram pictures. Then Thelma Todd arrives, full of tough charm and hard-boiled agendas.
Most of the changes here are for staging - again, to adjust for the dark set and master shot mentality of MGM's misunderstanding of comedy.
TO THE SHOW!
Sequence 3 of Speak Easily is one of the smoothest of the film. It begins with goodbyes at the station, with Keaton getting mixed up with Jimmy Durante and then getting on the wrong train - the shot is one of the best composed of the feature, with Keaton staring ahead, while his departing train can be seen through the doorway behind him. He is for a fleeting moment, a contented statue.
The banter with the station master is a well performed give and take, for as short as it is, followed by an undercranked ride in a jalopy. Keaton is deposited in front of the opera house and, like his 1929 feature Spite Marriage, we get to see the troupe's performance before it is later disrupted by Keaton's inclusion.
The first sequence was a warm up for this class project to play with the 1932 Keaton film, "Speak Easily."
Once the Professor has been informed of a $750,000 inheritance, he is off to seek companionship and rub elbows with the common man. Instead, he encounters Jimmy Durante and an impoverished vaudeville troupe. I ran the clip from the original film, and then we made suggestions based on what we saw. To be honest, I had already made the edit for this portion, but the students were a savvy lot and they identified nearly everything destined for the cutting-room floor.
Here is how it ran in 1932:
During this sequence, the audience learns that the inheritance was a ruse by the professor's butler (well, a shared butler, I guess...what kind of college is this?!?). His confession is staged in another cavernous set at a college where buildings are 50% higher than they should be to accommodate the high ceilings.
So I showed them my edited version, and they suggested further cuts and resized shots which were then incorporated:
The 1932 scene ran 10 minutes, 36 seconds. The edited version came in at 8 minutes, 34 seconds. Already we have trimmed about a third of a reel! It won't be the last time Henry Armetta gets his underwritten and overacted part trimmed in the course of this project.
There are the ruins of a good comedy in the penultimate Keaton feature for MGM, "Speak Easily." Released in 1932, it has the typical overwritten, over-explained plot of his "talkies," often more noise than humor. I turned it over to my students in a dozen sequences after discussing film editing, use of close-ups, tightening action, and knowing when to end a scene.
Here is sequence #1 of the film, as released by MGM. It has gone into the public domain, so that was the main reason I chose it for the exercise:
With CoVid vaccinations becoming more available and some possible light at the end of the tunnel emerging, it's time to reflect on a favorite Michigan past-time, namely, road trips. Here's a bit of one from 1984...on SUPER 8mm FILM!!