In honor of Buster Keaton’s birthday today, October 4, 1895, Turner Classic Movies is hosting a Buster Keaton celebration by playing a large selection of his films throughout October. Watching Keaton’s penultimate MGM feature Speak Easily (1932) for the first time, I was surprised to see that the movie employs the same train stations where Keaton filmed some of his greatest silent film triumphs.
In Speak Easily Buster plays a timid classical Greek literature professor who befriends a struggling stage troupe. Buster first meets them beside the Inglewood train station, best known as the setting for the climax of Keaton’s debut silent short One Week (1920), where Buster’s house is demolished by an oncoming train.
As Buster is dragged aboard a departing Inglewood train in Speak Easily (above), you can see a distinctive shed that stood nearby during the filming of One Week.
Later in Speak Easily, Buster and the troupe arrive at the Chatsworth station, and momentarily go their separate ways. As shown below, the Chatsworth train station appears briefly in Sherlock Jr. (1924), and due north of the station is the water tank in Sherlock Jr. where Buster unknowingly broke his neck filming a stunt lowering himself to the ground from the tank water spout.
Buster made only one more feature for MGM after Speak Easily before he was fired. Given Buster’s struggles at MGM, and his despair over losing creative control of his films, you have to wonder what Buster might have been thinking when he re-visited these stations where he had created screen magic a decade earlier. Both the Inglewood and Chatsworth stations are lost to history, but both appear frequently in early film.
Speak Easily is available for instant viewing on the Internet Archive. The train station scenes begin at 6:30 and17:00 into the film.
I explain One Week in full detail in my book Silent Echoes. This map below shows where Buster’s house crossed the still-active rail line at the end of the film. The former Chatsworth station was located on the west side of the tracks, across from the current Chatsworth Amtrak station.