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Author Topic: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton  (Read 267 times)

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Offline metaldams

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The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 09, 2017, 10:03:46 AM »
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  •       So starts the MGM years, and some parallels to the Marx Brothers joining MGM can be found.  Like A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, THE CAMERAMAN, Keaton's first MGM, is definitely the strongest of the MGM bunch and a classic film.  Their respective debut MGM films are also both their best films from a standard filmmaking point of view in that both contain the most satisfying story of all their films.  However, independent Keaton and Paramount Marx Brothers were not standard filmmaking, so the essence of The Marx Brothers and Keaton are found in earlier productions.  Still, for one film a piece, each comic remains basically true to themselves in a standard Hollywood framework, and MGM is to be commended on this.  Too bad it didn't last, though in my opinion, Keaton was hurt more overall than the Marx Brothers at MGM...which we'll discuss in other reviews.  This week, we have a classic on our hand.

          One other point I would like to make before discussing the film proper is that I feel the silent era died when it was reaching its artistic peak, tragically.  Make no mistake, late silents are much better than early talkies.  More fluid camera movement not limited by boom mics, and late era silent acting became much more understated than early talkies, where dialogue was very stage bound.  MGM arguably made the best late silents, and I throw THE CAMERAMAN in a group with films like THE WIND, THE CROWD, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, and SHOW PEOPLE.  MGM had it going on in 1928!

           As for THE CAMERAMAN itself, no big long chases and breathtaking stunt laden scenes we all know and love Keaton for.. .and none are needed.  The storytelling is strong enough, but there are lots of great comic bits thrown in.  The only one that really doesn't advance the story is the bit at Yankee Stadium (yes, the real Yankee Stadium), where Keaton brilliantly pantomimes a baseball game all by himself.  You can tell Keaton loved baseball, the attention to detail is aeesome.  The way he pantomimes holding runners on, calling outfielders in, ducking a high and inside pitch and almost charging the mound...absolutely brilliant work.  So what if it doesn't advance the plot, it's character building as it shows Keaton's love of filming things, central to the character in the film. 

          Gotta love the dressing room scene with Edward Brophy, one of those great claustrophobic comic scenes up there with SCRAMBLED BRAINS.  Vernon Dent is sort of involved in this one too, as yes, that's Vernon Buster gets the overstuffed swimwear mixed up with, which leads us to the classic high diving scene.  I was familiar as a kid with this gag where the swimwear is lost in the water and the comic is trying to hide his nakedness because Rowan Atkinson did this same gag in one of his Mr. Bean skits.  Now I know where he got it from.  Classic gag, and hysterical with all the girls swimming by him as he's naked.  The Tong War bit is also excellent, especially love the way Keaton gets the third leg of his tripod camera blown off on purpose by gunfire to match the other two blown off legs!  Also props for the camerawork of Buster running high speed up and down those stairs, only to run quickly enough to his girl before she realizes he's no longer on the phone with her.

          Oh, and there's the girl herself, Marceline Day.  Easily my favorite Keaton leading lady, and really, Jobyna Ralston is the only competition for my silent comic leading lady ultimate crush.  Beautiful girl, but beyond that, it's the character she plays, who is always supportive and patient with Keaton.  Unbelievably likeable, how could Keaton not fall for her?  That's one of the reasons why THE CAMERAMAN works so well.  Harold Lloyd usually had the best romances, while Chaplin had the best heartbreaks, but Keaton does Lloyd territory very well here, and he had the lady to pull it off.  Love that shot of Keaton where it's the close up of his eyes over the camera looking at Marceline Day, used by TCM in their Silent Sunday Night intro.

          A great film overall, and one of my all-time favorite Keaton films and films in general.  We have one more silent to go, then the talkies.  Umbrella Sam, you're going to have to tell me that a Disney connection in this film, I'm clueless.

    10/10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: December 09, 2017, 02:09:59 PM »
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  • Marceline Day as a blonde on the right.  In the center is Clara Bow!  Cool picture.

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: December 09, 2017, 05:17:21 PM »
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  • Umbrella Sam, you're going to have to tell me that a Disney connection in this film, I'm clueless.

    The connection is Edward Brophy. A great character actor, his most known role today is as the voice of Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo’s only friend in Disney’s 4th animated feature.

    Now, as for THE CAMERAMAN, it is true that this is probably Keaton’s best story in terms of its narrative. It is a very strong story that continues moving along while still allowing for many funny moments in it. THE CAMERAMAN is probably my third favorite of Keaton’s films, right after STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. and GO WEST. There are two minor but still important reasons I put this behind those two: first, while the story in THE CAMERAMAN is good, it is a pretty conventional one, that being of the underdog working his way beyond expectations. The other two are themes that I don’t think are explored enough in films and Keaton pulled them off very well. The other reason is the setting. BILL and GO WEST take place in more open spaces that are much nicer to look at and give a better feeling of atmosphere. THE CAMERAMAN has some locations like this, but generally takes place in the more overcrowded city, which isn’t bad, but not as interesting to look at.

    Still, there is a lot to like about THE CAMERAMAN. Much like in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR., the constantly flowing narrative really does allow for a wide variety of gags. That bit at the baseball stadium, though very pointless, is still just amazing to look at. Keaton is still so energetic here and his energy helps to really make the scene. In addition to baseball, his passion for film really does shine through here. That moment where he’s first examining the MGM camera seems staged almost exactly like how Keaton reacted to it in real life, after meeting Roscoe Arbuckle for the first time and as a result it feels very natural; you really get the idea of how impressed he is with the equipment.

    Yes, Marceline Day is without a doubt Keaton’s best leading lady. Much like Jobyna Ralston, she’s good at playing a very likable and interesting character. When she gets upset, you really get the idea of how upset she is and when she rats out Goodwin, you really get an idea of how ticked off she is. Her character is written very well, too. She risks her job by giving Keaton the tip and is very sympathetic to Keaton, even if she really isn’t that interested in him at first. Oh, and also metaldams, I’m shocked you didn’t mention that Day also appeared in the much sought after Lon Chaney film, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.

    Lots of great visual gags in here. Metaldams did a very good job detailing the best ones, so I’ll just mention a few observations. First, in addition to Dent’s appearance, there’s at least one other Stooge connection with a shorter version of the hole in the wall gag from GOOF ON THE ROOF. Also must give a shout-out to the dressing room scene with Brophy. A very well executed scene that shows that comedians can work well in small spaces and make it funny (looking at you, BERTH MARKS). I must point out also how top-notch the camerawork is here. Lots of great shots, including the aforementioned baseball scene as well as when Keaton continues going up and down the stairs of his apartment. Also, I really must praise the scene after Day leaves the beach with Goodwin. The combination of Keaton's performance, the camera backing up, and the sea in the background makes for what I consider the most emotional scene in a Keaton film.

    I guess the one nitpick I have is that some of the scenes with the police officer, particularly the warehouse scene, do feel a bit too much like gags meant for the sound era. Still, even then Harry Gribbon still has lots of great reactions to Keaton’s antics.

    So, THE CAMERAMAN was a very good effort, showing that the Keaton and MGM partnership could have worked out well. The general consensus is that THE CAMERAMAN is the last true Keaton classic and his career went downhill afterwards. The question then becomes: is there one MGM film (besides THE CAMERAMAN, of course) that is even kind of worth checking out? We shall find out in the coming weeks.

    10 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: December 09, 2017, 05:47:56 PM »
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  • The connection is Edward Brophy. A great character actor, his most known role today is as the voice of Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo’s only friend in Disney’s 4th animated feature.

    Now, as for THE CAMERAMAN, it is true that this is probably Keaton’s best story in terms of its narrative. It is a very strong story that continues moving along while still allowing for many funny moments in it. THE CAMERAMAN is probably my third favorite of Keaton’s films, right after STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. and GO WEST. There are two minor but still important reasons I put this behind those two: first, while the story in THE CAMERAMAN is good, it is a pretty conventional one, that being of the underdog working his way beyond expectations. The other two are themes that I don’t think are explored enough in films and Keaton pulled them off very well. The other reason is the setting. BILL and GO WEST take place in more open spaces that are much nicer to look at and give a better feeling of atmosphere. THE CAMERAMAN has some locations like this, but generally takes place in the more overcrowded city, which isn’t bad, but not as interesting to look at.

    Still, there is a lot to like about THE CAMERAMAN. Much like in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR., the constantly flowing narrative really does allow for a wide variety of gags. That bit at the baseball stadium, though very pointless, is still just amazing to look at. Keaton is still so energetic here and his energy helps to really make the scene. In addition to baseball, his passion for film really does shine through here. That moment where he’s first examining the MGM camera seems staged almost exactly like how Keaton reacted to it in real life, after meeting Roscoe Arbuckle for the first time and as a result it feels very natural; you really get the idea of how impressed he is with the equipment.

    Yes, Marceline Day is without a doubt Keaton’s best leading lady. Much like Jobyna Ralston, she’s good at playing a very likable and interesting character. When she gets upset, you really get the idea of how upset she is and when she rats out Goodwin, you really get an idea of how ticked off she is. Her character is written very well, too. She risks her job by giving Keaton the tip and is very sympathetic to Keaton, even if she really isn’t that interested in him at first. Oh, and also metaldams, I’m shocked you didn’t mention that Day also appeared in the much sought after Lon Chaney film, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.

    Lots of great visual gags in here. Metaldams did a very good job detailing the best ones, so I’ll just mention a few observations. First, in addition to Dent’s appearance, there’s at least one other Stooge connection with a shorter version of the hole in the wall gag from GOOF ON THE ROOF. Also must give a shout-out to the dressing room scene with Brophy. A very well executed scene that shows that comedians can work well in small spaces and make it funny (looking at you, BERTH MARKS). I must point out also how top-notch the camerawork is here. Lots of great shots, including the aforementioned baseball scene as well as when Keaton continues going up and down the stairs of his apartment. Also, I really must praise the scene after Day leaves the beach with Goodwin. The combination of Keaton's performance, the camera backing up, and the sea in the background makes for what I consider the most emotional scene in a Keaton film.

    I guess the one nitpick I have is that some of the scenes with the police officer, particularly the warehouse scene, do feel a bit too much like gags meant for the sound era. Still, even then Harry Gribbon still has lots of great reactions to Keaton’s antics.

    So, THE CAMERAMAN was a very good effort, showing that the Keaton and MGM partnership could have worked out well. The general consensus is that THE CAMERAMAN is the last true Keaton classic and his career went downhill afterwards. The question then becomes: is there one MGM film (besides THE CAMERAMAN, of course) that is even kind of worth checking out? We shall find out in the coming weeks.

    10 out of 10

         It's funny, I'm very aware of Edward Brophy from several MGM films, but had no idea he voiced a character in DUMBO - a film I haven't seen in probably over 30 years.  Yikes!

          You're correct about Marceline Day being in LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, which I did know and even saw her in - photo still restoration, of course!  She also appeared in a few early Harry Langdon shorts.  She was only 20 when THE CAMERAMAN was filmed, which boggles my mind, as I thought she would have been older.  I guess twenty year olds carried themselves differently back then, she seemed mature beyond her years.  A beautiful woman, she was.

          As far as the Harry Gribbon stuff, I'm inclined to agree with you.  The flaw is so minor compared to the rest of this film I can overlook it.  That being said, the overuse of title cards in those scenes and the "warehouse" pun do foreshadow the talkies, as does Gribbon treating Keaton insane as if he's....(shudders)... the Elmer character.  Harry Gribbon, of course, made some shorts in the mid 30's for Warner Brothers, some of them teaming up with Shemp!

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: December 09, 2017, 07:51:17 PM »
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  •      It's funny, I'm very aware of Edward Brophy from several MGM films, but had no idea he voiced a character in DUMBO - a film I haven't seen in probably over 30 years.  Yikes!

          You're correct about Marceline Day being in LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, which I did know and even saw her in - photo still restoration, of course!  She also appeared in a few early Harry Langdon shorts.  She was only 20 when THE CAMERAMAN was filmed, which boggles my mind, as I thought she would have been older.  I guess twenty year olds carried themselves differently back then, she seemed mature beyond her years.  A beautiful woman, she was.

          As far as the Harry Gribbon stuff, I'm inclined to agree with you.  The flaw is so minor compared to the rest of this film I can overlook it.  That being said, the overuse of title cards in those scenes and the "warehouse" pun do foreshadow the talkies, as does Gribbon treating Keaton insane as if he's....(shudders)... the Elmer character.  Harry Gribbon, of course, made some shorts in the mid 30's for Warner Brothers, some of them teaming up with Shemp!

    Coincidentally, I happened to catch IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE on TCM today as well, and who should show up but Edward Brophy!

    Also, I didn’t know Day was only 20 in this until I read your comment. I thought she seemed older in this as well.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: December 12, 2017, 06:18:16 PM »
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  • I just want to say that I do plan to watch and review this... I'm just enjoying my first time off in a while :)

    I take it my links to the Damfino's page weren't appreciated?
    #1 fire kibitzer

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: December 12, 2017, 07:25:38 PM »
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  • I just want to say that I do plan to watch and review this... I'm just enjoying my first time off in a while :)

    I take it my links to the Damfino's page weren't appreciated?

    I actually enjoyed those; they were good for consulting if I didn’t understand a certain part.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #7 on: December 12, 2017, 08:46:48 PM »
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  • I just want to say that I do plan to watch and review this... I'm just enjoying my first time off in a while :)

    I take it my links to the Damfino's page weren't appreciated?

    I don't know if my iPad is the issue, but when I tried, the only address showing in the address bar was "www.busterkeaton.com,". In other words, when I clicked the link and was able to get to the film's page, the address bar didn't change, so I had nothing to copy and paste.  Looking forward to your review when you get around to seeing this one.

    For the record, my DVD player has been inconsistent lately, so hoping it works well when I try to review Buster this weekend.  The thing's old, if discs don't play, may cave in and buy a blu ray player.  We'll see.

    Offline Tony Bensley

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #8 on: December 13, 2017, 02:17:27 AM »
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  • I don't know if my iPad is the issue, but when I tried, the only address showing in the address bar was "www.busterkeaton.com,". In other words, when I clicked the link and was able to get to the film's page, the address bar didn't change, so I had nothing to copy and paste.  Looking forward to your review when you get around to seeing this one.

    For the record, my DVD player has been inconsistent lately, so hoping it works well when I try to review Buster this weekend.  The thing's old, if discs don't play, may cave in and buy a blu ray player.  We'll see.
    Without a Blu-ray setup, you're missing out - Says the guy who watches them on a 720p Flatscreen! [scratch]

    CHEERS!  [pie]


    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #9 on: December 13, 2017, 05:17:59 PM »
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  • I don't know if my iPad is the issue, but when I tried, the only address showing in the address bar was "www.busterkeaton.com,". In other words, when I clicked the link and was able to get to the film's page, the address bar didn't change, so I had nothing to copy and paste.

    Tap and hold the link... you should get a dialog box with an option to "copy link" or something similar.
    #1 fire kibitzer

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #10 on: December 16, 2017, 05:21:25 AM »
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  • THE CAMERMAN is a terrific film, a must see for any fan of Depression-era history just because of the scenery.  It shows that this is an MGM film and not a Schenck.  I think it's technically public domain because it's in the Library of Congress.

    I really can't add much of anything to what has been said for highlights, so I'll point out some minor complaints and praises.  The opening scenes drag on a bit long and are a bit too ridiculous for my taste.   It's hilarious watching Keaton get pushed around in the booth and when the guys are swarming his girlfriend when one can look and see that, in spite of Keaton's short stature and slim figure, he is easily the one with the biggest muscles.  When he's in the pool without Vernon Dent's swimsuit, you can see his arse.  I love the face he makes before stealing that lady's swimsuit.  Lastly, the Tong War may be his single most impressive work of scripting and directing we have seen yet.

    I almost feel that, after this, the only reason for MGM to restrict him so much was because they wanted to torpedo his career and promote one of their own actors.

    10/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
    #1 fire kibitzer

    Offline Tony Bensley

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    Re: The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #11 on: December 16, 2017, 04:34:28 PM »
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  • THE CAMERMAN is a terrific film, a must see for any fan of Depression-era history just because of the scenery.  It shows that this is an MGM film and not a Schenck.  I think it's technically public domain because it's in the Library of Congress.

    I really can't add much of anything to what has been said for highlights, so I'll point out some minor complaints and praises.  The opening scenes drag on a bit long and are a bit too ridiculous for my taste.   It's hilarious watching Keaton get pushed around in the booth and when the guys are swarming his girlfriend when one can look and see that, in spite of Keaton's short stature and slim figure, he is easily the one with the biggest muscles.  When he's in the pool without Vernon Dent's swimsuit, you can see his arse.  I love the face he makes before stealing that lady's swimsuit.  Lastly, the Tong War may be his single most impressive work of scripting and directing we have seen yet.

    I almost feel that, after this, the only reason for MGM to restrict him so much was because they wanted to torpedo his career and promote one of their own actors.

    10/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
    MGM just wasn't very good in the long haul when it came to established comedians/comedy series, and only got worse over time.  By the time Laurel & Hardy made their two wartime Features at MGM in 1943-1944, they were downright dregsville in that department, what with the long running 'Our Gang' series having also been driven into the ground by that time!

    CHEERS!  [3stooges]