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Author Topic: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton  (Read 212 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 03, 2017, 05:24:12 AM »
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  • Watch STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. in the box above and get the Damfino's note here:
    http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/C11_Steamboat_Bill_Jr.html

    Well, we have reached the end of Phase 2 of our journey.  Starting next weekend, metaldams will take over the reviews business starting with Buster's first MGM feature, THE CAMERAMAN.  I won't be without projects, though, as I plan to continue either with Buster's Columbia shorts or some reasonable facsimile thereof.  I'll take next weekend off from reviews while I organize a special Stooge related Christmas surprise that I hope to post on Wednesday's.

    STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. is a satirical little film, to say the least.  The constant theme of a gruff (often lousy) but still loving father [and the contrast using doting mother, where applicable] leads me to believe this must be reflective of the real Keaton household.  Much of this short revolves around this theme of father-son relationships.

    There is an extended hat choosing gag (akin to Curly's) that, naturally, includes Buster trying on his traditional porkpie hat, but, for a change, choosing a more period appropriate hat.  We see some typical Buster incompetence with running the steamship until finally Bill, Sr. is sent to jail (the whole condemning the boat stuff is a bit ludicrous given the lack of such laws at the time).  From here on, it's the typical Buster fare to the end.

    The storm is all the stuff we love, but, as usual, we see Buster using the skills he failed to learn before to save the day (much like his running scene in COLLEGE).  Some of the stunts during the hurricane are breathtaking, and it's fact that Buster could have been hurt or killed doing some of these scenes, one of which is a more dangerous version of a scene from BACK STAGE.

    The ending when he jumps into the water and returns with a priest is a perfect little end to an excellent film.

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

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    Re: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: December 03, 2017, 07:07:06 PM »
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  • Well, we’ve made it to the end of the independent era for Keaton and in my opinion, he went out on top. I’ll say it right now: STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. is my absolute favorite out of all of Buster Keaton’s films!

    The story of this one involves Keaton meeting up with his father for the first time since he was a child while getting caught in the middle of a feud between his father and Mr. King. Unfortunately for Keaton, it turns out his love interest is the daughter of Mr. King. While the romance is important to the story, much like in GO WEST, it takes a backseat to a much larger theme: the relationship between father and son. They pull this off very well, and I think a lot of it has to do with the performance of Ernest Torrence. While he does look pretty intimidating at first, as the film goes along, you do get the idea that this is someone who really does care for his son and wants to be able to accept him, but Keaton keeps making it too hard for him. A lot of this comes from how expressive Torrence can be with his face. Sure, he gets angry a lot, but there are also moments where he does look genuinely concerned for Keaton and even kind of confused over whether he really should be mad at him or not. One moment I’ve always loved is when he escapes but Keaton gets knocked out by the jailer, rather than escape, he instead goes back and gives the jailer what he had coming to him, despite knowing he’ll have to go back to prison. It was a nice way to stick up for his son and I’ve always thought it was a very touching moment.

    Besides Torrence, the rest of the supporting cast does very well. Marion Byron plays Keaton’s love interest and much like Natalie Talmadge in OUR HOSPITALITY is given an interesting situation of choosing between Keaton and family values. She briefly leaves him, though you actually can understand her reason. She thinks that Keaton stood her up and while we did see why Keaton couldn’t get to the ship in time, we can still understand why she feels that way, yet we still see that she does sympathize with Keaton when his father is taken away. Beyond this, we’ve also got Tom Lewis and Tom McGuire in relatively small, but still somewhat important roles, and even Keaton’s own father Joe as the barber who shaves Keaton early in the film.

    Then there’s the comedy as well. STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. has a lot of variety to its comedy, thanks to its constantly flowing narrative. We’ve got the hat gag that later turned up in 3 DUMB CLUCKS. I love 3 DUMB CLUCKS and still think it was done pretty well there, but Keaton and Torrence’s timing does feel a lot better here. Keaton insists on one hat that Torrence gets more and more fed up with and we even get a little in-joke with the long-gone pork pie hat. We also get various gags on the boat: Keaton accidentally moving the boat and knocking the others over, Keaton fighting with the officer on the “King,” Keaton falling into the water overnight. One of my favorite gags is during the nighttime sequence: Keaton hears someone coming while setting up the board, so he pretends to be asleep, despite the fact that he’s already outside and will be caught anyway! The stuff in the jail is pretty good as well: I love how Keaton misses the jailer’s chin and inadvertently knocks him out as a result; a very funny way to get Torrence out of the prison.

    The storm sequence is too amazing for words. Lots of stuff flying around as well as buildings falling over give this sequence a lot of intensity, yet Keaton still finds a lot of humor during this sequence as well; he gets a chance to explore a stage with tricks and tries to find his balance throughout the sequence in a way that only Keaton could make funny. Then of course there’s the famous wall scene. If Keaton had been only 2 inches off from the correct mark, he would have died! This really goes to show Keaton’s dedication to entertaining his audience. The film ends with the two captains making peace and a funny closing gag involving a priest. A very satisfying ending.

    STEAMBOAT BILL, JR., to me, is the quintessential Keaton film. It gets the comedy right, it gets the drama right, and it maintains the excitement of a short like THE BOAT (though it works better here since it’s in a feature). I love this film a lot and plan on coming back to it many times in the future.

    10 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: December 07, 2017, 11:06:26 PM »
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  •       Start with a little bit of trivia again.  First off, I never put two and two together until about six months ago, but Ernest Torrence, the man who played Keaton's Dad, is the same actor who played Clopin (leader of the that tramp society) in Lon Chaney's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.  Secondly, the first synchronized sound cartoon ever, Disney's STEAMBOAT WILLIE, parodied this film in the title the same way a lot of Stooge titles parodied films of their day in their titles.

          I think you guys did a real good job of reviewing this one, so I'll only concur with a few things and add little.  STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. is tied for second with OUR HOSPITALITY in my eyes, and first place is a three way tie between THE GENERAL; SHERLOCK, JR.; and one more film we haven't discussed yet, but really, I'm clutching straws here.  All amazing films, and yeah it's true story wise, this is definitely one of Keaton's strongest.  Umbrella Sam is correct in praising the combination of drama and comedy as well as the performance of Ernest Torrence, as he nailed my thoughts exactly.  My favorite non-Keaton performance in a Keaton film, and the only character who is as interesting in any Keaton film as Keaton himself.  A father who hasn't seen his grown son since infancy struggling to come to terms with how his son turned out.  Keaton, being different from his father's expectations, gives a chance for the combination disgust/love/confusion to be shown by Torrence.  This was a very layered and brilliant performance.

          Keaton himself is great as usual, and dig the way he's jumping multiple storied decks towards the end on the steamboat....such fantastic athleticism.  Also dig the pantomiming to his father there's a file in the bread and stating the file can help him escape.  A brilliant pantomime job worthy of Chaplin.  The hurricane scene has been discussed a million times by critics more astute than I, so I'll simply say I'm a member of the chorus.  I'll add that it was probably inspired by Harry Langdon's hurricane scene in 1926's TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP; though Keaton's version is much more elaborate.

          A fantastic end to a brilliant run of films, one of the great artistic runs in film.  Starting next review Keaton disobeys the advice of Chaplin and Lloyd, signs away his independence, and joins mega studio MGM.  How will Keaton fare with Irving Thalberg and the big machine?  We shall discuss over the next few months.

    10/10

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: December 08, 2017, 04:38:58 PM »
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  •       Start with a little bit of trivia again.  First off, I never put two and two together until about six months ago, but Ernest Torrence, the man who played Keaton's Dad, is the same actor who played Clopin (leader of the that tramp society) in Lon Chaney's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.  Secondly, the first synchronized sound cartoon ever, Disney's STEAMBOAT WILLIE, parodied this film in the title the same way a lot of Stooge titles parodied films of their day in their titles.
    I remember seeing Torrence in one other film called DESERT NIGHTS as well. The film itself was not very good, but Torrence definitely was the best part of it.

    As far as Disney connections, Keaton actually has a few more in the future, including one in this week’s film, THE CAMERAMAN. See if you can guess what it is. ;)