Saturday, January 8, 2011

#226 Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)


Director: Charles Reisner, Buster Keaton

Cast: Buster Keaton, Tom McGuire, Ernest Torrence, Tom Lewis, Marion Byron

William Canfield Jr. (Keaton) has just arrived home from his school in Boston to visit his estranged father whom hasn't seen him since he was a baby. His father, of course, is William Canfield Sr. (Torrence), but is perhaps more commonly known by the name Steamboat Bill. As owner of the town's old and trusty steamboat, Stonewall Jackson, Bill Sr. is facing hard times as John James King (McGuire) has just announced his new "palace on the water" steamboat called The King.

Steamboat Bill is devastated when he finally meets his son– terribly disappointed that his tweedy, silly, and also in love with King's daughter, Kitty (Byron). Bill Sr. tries to make Willie into a real man, but Willie is more interested in showing his affections to Kitty. When Steamboat Bill gets put in jail, Willie begins a haphazard rescue mission. Things get even more crazy when a cyclone blows through the town, destroying everything and putting everyone, and particularly our hero, in peril.

The film is adorable and even has its moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity. Buster Keaton is an acrobat and part of the magnificence of this film is fantastic physical humor. His expressions, tumbles, and tricks absolutely steal the movie away! Memorable scenes include trying on hats with his father (poking fun at Buster Keaton's real-life fashion), an umbrella mishap with the police chief, and fighting the cyclone winds. Many of the stunts were extremely dangerous and somewhat unplanned, including having entire full-weight walls fall inches away from Keaton.

Definitely take the time to watch this short comedy classic. Even non-appreciators of silent film I think will be presently surprised by the physical splendor of Keaton. Really excited to see another film from his repertoire!

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