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Hollywood's hidden bilingualism in 'Free and Easy,' 'Big House'

Though many movie fans are unaware of it, Hollywood in the early days of sound engaged in what it called "parallel production," using the same sets but slightly different casts to shoot Spanish and French versions of films after the English-speaking actors had gone home.

In the two versions of "Free and Easy" released on disc by the Warner Archive Collection, star Buster Keaton remained the same but the rest of the cast changed from an English-language version to a Spanish-language one.

On the classic prison drama "The Big House," also released by WAC, the transition was even more abrupt. Entirely different casts did the film in both Spanish and French, with future star Charles Boyer being one of the leads in the French-language version.

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