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Tuesday, January 17, 2006





Buster Keaton In Transition --- Part 2


Buster Keaton’s next feature for MGM, and his second talkie, was Doughboys. There was also an appearance in the German version of The March Of Time, an aborted follow-up to The Hollywood Review Of 1929. A number of musical segments were filmed for this partly two-color extravaganza, with the result being a $692,000 write-off. An attempt to utilize some of the footage in another musical, Broadway To Hollywood, could not recoup the loss, as this film failed to produce sufficient revenue to show a profit. Proposed French and Spanish versions of The March Of Time were also abandoned, but there was a German edition that was actually completed, and this is the film in which Keaton appeared. Ramon Novarro, Adolphe Menjou, and John Gilbert were also in the cast, and the negative cost for the German March Of Time was $83,000. The nature and content of Keaton's appearance is unknown, as there is no evidence of this film having survived.


The English language version of Doughboys was filmed from May 3 to June 9, 1930 in 24-days, and was released on August 10, 1930. Negative cost was $275,948, and domestic rentals were $428,000, with foreign bringing an additional $386,000. Worldwide rentals were $814,000. As with Free and Easy, there was a Spanish version (De Frente Marchen), and the negative cost of that was $72,867. Again, costs were lowered for this version by virtue of the fact that not all of the feature had to be reshot, and this edition was released on October 22, 1930. The MGM profit and loss statement, taking into account the English language version only, showed a profit of $160,051 for Doughboys, but with the expense of De Frente Marchen figured in, the actual overall profit for all versions was less at $89,184. This was still a significant improvement over the loss experienced with Free and Easy.


Buster’s leading lady in Doughboys was Sally Eilers. Her Spanish counterpart was Conchita Montenegro, who would later have a co-starring role with Leslie Howard in Metro’s Never The Twain Shall Meet (1932). Buster is pictured here in uniform with Sally, and in top hat and tails with Conchita. Also, by way of comparison, we have a board meeting sequence from both the English and Spanish versions. Note the "Sp" that precedes the negative number in the lower right corner to denote scenes from De Frente Marchen. Supporting players Cliff Edwards and Edward Brophy are identifiable in the scene from Doughboys, although Spanish-speaking players in the still from De Frente Marchen replace them. In the next, concluding post, we’ll cover the English, German and French versions of Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath, the last Buster Keaton feature for which foreign language versions were filmed.

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