Here’s an odd one: a radio appearance by Buster Keaton from 1936. At the time, he had just made the brilliant GRAND SLAM OPERA, in which he appears as a juggler on a radio amateur hour (!). While it has received latter day praise from Keaton fans, even at the time it was received as something special. There were great review and Educational Pictures went all out with the publicity, taking full page ads in the trades. Someone at Educational obviously realised that it would ge a great tie-in to get Buster to actually appear on the radio, and that’s exactly what he did here.
It’s a bit of an odd listen to be sure. Part of the reason that GRAND SLAM OPERA works so well is that it presents the incongruity of Buster doing a visual act on the radio (and makes a sly comment on his perceived obsolescence in the process).
On the real radio, of course we can’t see any of the visual stuff, and Buster has no option but to jump in to the All-talking world he spoofs in the film. The material is a variation on the interrupted act from the film, but this time a dramatic monologue rather than juggling. His handling of dialogue is fine, but the material isn’t amazing and this isn’t really his thing. In fact, this is more like one of the routines MGM might have had him do. Still, an interesting little curio of two worlds colliding.
Here’s GRAND SLAM OPERA, the film which inspired it..