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Author Topic: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton  (Read 399 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
« on: May 13, 2017, 05:05:52 AM »
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  • http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/C01_The_Saphead.html
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8Ca1KyQ8Yc

    Watch THE SAPHEAD in the link above.

    100 bottles of Damfino to whoever can tell me what is wrong with that movie poster.

    THE SAPHEAD was, for me, absolutely, insufferably bad.  This movie is filled with so many plot holes and both Irving Cummings and Buster Keaton have characters that make absolutely no sense, behaving in ways that pushes the envelope of fiction too far for my liking.

    These things said, I must also say that the performance is absolutely flawless.  The effects are all done well, especially night vs. sunrise vs. morning.  The depiction of the stock exchange makes me want to go run out and buy stock.

    William H. Crane, 75 years of age at the time of filming (born in 1845!!!), is absolutely fantastic in his portrayal of Nicholas van Alstyne.  His experience from performing in the original stage version of THE HENRIETTA in the 1880s clearly shows.  Buster does a good job with his role, but it feels more like he is there as comic relief (as is Leon) amidst the sea of seriousness from the other actors.

    Plot holes: as mentioned before me by Umbrella Sam, Bertie burning the letters; the letters are labeled "Omaha, NE" so (1) how does the nurse get to New York and back, (2) how does she happen to know that Mark is there when all his letters were written to and from his office, (3) assuming she was in NY, how did she get there in just a few seconds, abandoning the dead body in a classless manner, and get into a *mansion; the fact that Old Nick is on a cruise and takes a car to get home; it's too convenient that Bertie just happens to have a picture of Henrietta on his shelf; lastly, it's too convenient that the mine and the mistress are named "Henrietta."

    A masterpiece from the actors, but pardon me while I puke at the plot.

    4/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: May 13, 2017, 11:29:57 AM »
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  • The only problem I see with that movie poster (outside of the fact that Keaton is not in it) is that, from what I can see, the name of the original play is spelt wrong.

    The only reason Keaton appears in this film is for promotional reasons (Schenk loaned Keaton out between production of THE HIGH SIGN and ONE WEEK). As a result, Keaton only appears as an actor which unfortunately means that we don't really get that many signs of his style of comedy. He even smiles at one point.

    It's not entirely without comedy, though, as I like Keaton's failed attempts at getting arrested and the stuff at the stock exchange is very good as well, even if it doesn't rank up there with Keaton's best finales. The plot is decent and the other actors do fine in their roles. One thing that bothers me, though, is why Bertie burns the letters. He clearly knows they aren't his and he could have exposed Mark for who he was at that moment simply by looking at the letters. I don't entirely understand why he would burn them without looking at them first.

    It's not one of Keaton's better silent films, although, to be fair, it's hard to really consider it a Keaton film at all (William H. Crane receives top billing in that poster). As far as being a film that has Keaton in a featured role, it's fine. Keaton showed that he could be a good dramatic actor at times and I didn't ever find myself bored when watching this. I do wish it was a little funnier, but overall I didn't have too many problems with it.

    7 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: May 13, 2017, 11:56:19 AM »
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  • The only thing I see wrong is no Keaton pictured on the poster.  I will watch and review later this weekend or early next week, but all I'll say now is that this is Keaton's first feature in the same way TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE is Chaplin's first feature...actor only, not creator.  As an interesting bit of trivia, Douglas Fairbanks (who for years I believed I was named after as a kid because of a joke my Dad said I naively believed) played Keaton's role on stage, and Fairbanks himself wanted Keaton for the film.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: May 15, 2017, 07:37:05 AM »
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  • Metaldams wins the Damfino because the poster has "The Henrietta" spelled correctly.   [pie]

    My review is in.
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: May 15, 2017, 09:30:24 AM »
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  • So what's wrong with the poster?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: May 15, 2017, 04:01:35 PM »
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  • What the flatbush flatheads above pointed out: no Buster
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: May 15, 2017, 05:13:19 PM »
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  • Oh.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #7 on: May 16, 2017, 09:37:46 PM »
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  •       There is an interview floating out there on YouTube of an older Keaton talking about how he and Charlie Chaplin had a competition to see who can make a feature film with the least amount of title cards.  Keaton says Chaplin won, but the point is the great masters made silent comedy features that told a story through action and little words.  Well, THE SAPHEAD, a film Keaton merely stars in but did not create, uses lots of title cards.  I'm in the camp of preferring silent film to have lots of action, spectacle, or great camera work and less title cards.  THE SAPHEAD is a drawing room comedy that is OK for what it is, nothing more.

          Keaton does carry himself very well here, as has been stated, but he raises the character itself.  The character at times does show a gullibility not seen from Keaton until some of his talking era Elmer MGM turns.  The whole "Henrietta" stock exchange gag shows extreme naievity on his part.  Overall an interesting film as a historical curio and silent Keaton is always a good thing, but this may possibly be the least essential Keaton silent.  Certainly every silent made after this has more meaning for me.

          Interesting how much the son in law can get away with when his father in law is away on a cruise.  In this day and age, not necessary.  They have cell phones, making plots like this not possible anymore.

    6/10

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #8 on: May 17, 2017, 06:22:35 AM »
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  • I know Buster was hand chosen for this role, but I still want to ask a good question about it.

    Does anyone else feel that Harry Langdon would have been better for the role of Bertie?
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #9 on: May 17, 2017, 08:48:03 AM »
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  • Was Harry even in the movies in 1920?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #10 on: May 17, 2017, 05:06:35 PM »
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  • No, but it's a purely theoretical question so we're still kosher.
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #11 on: May 17, 2017, 05:24:32 PM »
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  • I could definitely picture Langdon doing the scene where they're knocking his hat off in the pit.  Langdon's slow reactions would be great.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #12 on: May 17, 2017, 06:00:38 PM »
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  • ....and Paul, have you watched any Chaplin and Lloyd?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #13 on: May 17, 2017, 06:55:54 PM »
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  • I haven't yet.  It's a life goal to at least try them, though I have never liked any snippets of Chaplin that I have watched.
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #14 on: May 17, 2017, 07:08:38 PM »
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  • I haven't yet.  It's a life goal to at least try them, though I have never liked any snippets of Chaplin that I have watched.

    Chaplin's very early stuff, while ahead of its time, isn't a great place to start as they're primitive shorts compared to Keaton (five years make a Hell of a difference in the silent era).  I first saw Chaplin with some 1915 shorts and was not initially impressed.  I did not become a fan until I saw City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936).  I then grew into the earlier stuff.  Most of the Chaplin stuff on YouTube, I imagine, is early shorts, so if you're looking on YouTube, I'd suggest making sure you're watching a Mutual or First National era film.  If you can get a hold of any feature, do. 

    Lloyd is awesome too.  Basically any two or three reeler from the early twenties, which I imagine are on YouTube, are great to start with.

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #15 on: May 17, 2017, 08:14:21 PM »
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  • I've always felt that, between the three, Keaton was the best at comedy, Chaplin was the best at telling a story, and Lloyd was the best at combining the two elements. As a result, I've always felt that Chaplin and Lloyd were better off in features than they were in shorts. Not that their shorts were bad, but I've always found their features to be more interesting to watch. Keaton made some very good features, although this was more from his comedy and his stories usually were not as interesting as the other two.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #16 on: May 18, 2017, 07:43:57 PM »
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  • I've always felt that, between the three, Keaton was the best at comedy, Chaplin was the best at telling a story, and Lloyd was the best at combining the two elements. As a result, I've always felt that Chaplin and Lloyd were better off in features than they were in shorts. Not that their shorts were bad, but I've always found their features to be more interesting to watch. Keaton made some very good features, although this was more from his comedy and his stories usually were not as interesting as the other two.

    Keaton's stories in and of themselves may not be as good as Chaplin and Lloyd, but he sure makes the best of what he's got.  Ironically, I feel story wise, his first MGM, THE CAMERAMAN, is his best.  Too bad the other MGM's didn't follow.

    Pretty good summary of the of the three great silent clowns, though.

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Saphead (1920) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #17 on: May 18, 2017, 09:29:10 PM »
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  • Keaton's stories in and of themselves may not be as good as Chaplin and Lloyd, but he sure makes the best of what he's got.  Ironically, I feel story wise, his first MGM, THE CAMERAMAN, is his best.  Too bad the other MGM's didn't follow.

    Pretty good summary of the of the three great silent clowns, though.

    I agree entirely with what you said. Also, thanks.  :)