The Educationals were films made in a hurry, and sometimes leave the impression that Keaton, his usual director Charles Lamont, and their writers didn't have enough time to think through the comic prospects of their stories. The most glaring such case is the third short in the series, Palooka From Paducah. A bearded Buster plays alongside his father, mother and sister as a family of hillbillies who decide to make money by putting Buster's big brother to work as a professional wrestler. The first half of the film has some good physical humor as Buster attempts to train his far stronger brother. You figure you see what's coming: Buster will somehow have to do the rasslin' instead. You'd be wrong, though; someone thought it'd be funnier if Buster played the referee. That someone, too, was wrong. It can't help but look anticlimactic, and since the big brother is given Buster's generic character name, "Elmer," while Buster himself plays "Jim," I wonder whether there was a last-minute role switch for some reason.
Buster proposes to juggle an empty whiskey bottle on the radio. "Is it empty?" the bandleader asks. "Yeah," Keaton mutters, "I made sure of that." Arguably uncomfortable alcoholic humor in Grand Slam Opera.Grand Slam Opera is a send-up of the Major Bowes Amateur Hour and other talent shows that predated The Gong Show or American Idol. It also gives Keaton a chance to parody Fred Astaire by wrecking a hotel room while attempting to dance on the furniture and mantelpiece. Buster hopes to win a prize by juggling on the radio, only to get into a fight with the studio bandleader. As a whole, the short is a mockery of rags-to-riches, star-is-born type success stories. Buster gets a musical sendoff from his local supporters and the usual montage of train wheels and so forth takes him to New York. After his defeat, there's another montage of futile motion, culminating with Buster trying to hitch a ride from an Indian woman carrying her baby papoose-style. He tries to ride the bumper of a stationary car, and that gives him a chance to learn from the radio that he'd won the radio contest and has a prize waiting for him in New York. There follows one more dazzling montage of wheels, propellers, stop and go signs, all superimposed over Buster running at breakneck speed, as if it only took him exactly that long to get back east. It leaves you with the stunned feeling that THIS is what Keaton should have been doing all along once sound arrived.