« Last post by metaldams on January 16, 2018, 09:17:39 PM »
Well, once again we have Keaton playing a rich character and once again it produces a fine enough result. It is interesting to see just how Jules White’s style of directing translates to a feature film and I believe this was the only one he ever directed (I know he helped out on BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD, though he wasn’t the main director).
So the story of this one deals with Keaton falling in love with a girl while also trying to help out her brother, while her brother is secretly being put into a scheme pulling off robberies with some gangsters. This story is far different from the ones Keaton had done in the past and doesn’t even revolve on him entirely, which is a refreshing change of pace. It is interesting to see these two story arcs both going on at the same time and they actually do combine pretty well, unlike PARLOR, BEDROOM, AND BATH which just constantly throws characters at you.
It is true, though, that White did not know how to handle dramatic moments all that well, something that’s apparent with the apartment scene. The scene on the stage...I actually thought kind of worked. Keaton and Cliff Edwards’ obliviousness makes perfect sense and it’s not so much comedic outside of Edwards ending up shooting his own wife in the play.
The big problem with SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK is that it tends to drag a bit. The boxing scenes in particular feel like they go on forever, despite being funny at first. The courtroom scene also was pretty hard to sit through, though that was mainly due to the fact that I know there’s a better version out there. Still, it does not come close to the version in DISORDER IN THE COURT and it also has an awkward shot of Keaton and Edwards pressing their faces up against glass.
The best scenes are the ones that feel a lot more controlled in length, more like something that could show up in a short subject. Keaton and Edwards making the record as well as performing the play are very funny moments. I also like how Keaton and Edwards’s wrestling at first very much looks like they’re dancing with each other as partners; a quick, but effective visual gag. Even the ending fight is actually pretty impressive, even if it is the kind of thing that is more in line with the Three Stooges than Keaton.
Cliff Edwards is upgraded back to Keaton’s sidekick for what would unfortunately be the last time. It’s true Edwards once again does not have a chance to sing in this, but he makes up for this with a genuinely funny performance. After seeing this, I kind of wished that Columbia would have given him his own series of short subjects; I feel he would have fit quite well in them. Anita Page also returns from FREE AND EASY and this time benefits from a much better script, getting a chance to show off several different moods.
Overall, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK still does not compare to Keaton in his prime, but does have an interesting style that makes it stand out from many of the other MGM Keaton films, something that can be mainly credited to White and Zion Myers (who occasionally wrote Three Stooges scripts such as HALF WITS HOLIDAY and HEAVENLY DAZE). I was legitimately surprised with how much I actually ended up liking this one.
7 out of 10
As far as Anita Page, night and day between this film and FREE AND EASY. She was given a better role here. Agreed with you completely. FREE AND EASY is probably Keaton's worst film.
Glad you like this one as much as humanly possible. This film normally gets trashed but obviously I'm not the only one who finds merit here.