Starring: Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Joe Keaton
Director: Buster Keaton, Jack Blystone
The MacKay family decide to send their young child away to safety after another local family swear to kill every last member of their family. The feud is nursed for years in the Appalachian town, but little Willy Mackay grows into a young man (Buster Keaton) in safety far away. When he inherits his family farm, he heads back to the place he was born to claim it, and falls in love with a beautiful girl on the train. Little does he know she is the daughter of the family that wants him dead.
Buster Keaton films were very popular in their day, and with good reason. He’s a master of physical comedy, satire and practical stunts. I prefer him to Charlie Chaplin, who was a bigger budget star and who had a better business mind, which has meant more of his films were preserved and he went on to be a founding member of United Artists. While Charlie is perhaps more well known now, Buster Keaton films are wonderful and deserve to be rediscovered. And if you’ve never seen a Buster Keaton film, this one is really entertaining.
The comedy of the film is not just in moments of physical humour, which are lovely, but in the satire of manners. His enemies cannot kill him while he’s a guest in their home, since this would be an awful breach of hospitality, so they try to get him to leave, while he finds excuses to stay. It’s a lovely film, full of playful action, humour but is also very smart and insightful. It’s a delightful film that shows Keaton’s ability to create mood and character as well as spectacle. You’ll be rooting for him to get the girl, and laughing at his obliviousness.
See It If: silent films can feel daunting because they’re long and there’s no dialogue, but take a look at this one, it might change your mind about silent films and it’s delightfully funny.