The Cameraman

The baseball sequence, in which Keaton finds himself all alone at the Polo Grounds, concludes with a face-first slide into home plate, the camera reveals he’s not alone, and this is identical to a gag in Go West, raising or debunking the question of directorial credit.

A print said to come from Warner Brothers adds an opening title on the difficulties of restoration and the importance of film preservation, but if run at the wrong speed...

Keaton in New York was distinctly remembered by Minnelli, a great student of silent film comedy, in The Clock, which though it also is a masterpiece only deals with its original by reflection, the crowded swimming pool becomes the train station, the staircase gag is adroitly transposed into the crane shot down a spiral staircase, etc.

The organ-grinder’s monkey gives the best performance in all of Keaton’s work up to that time, of a certainty, which is a great tribute to Keaton’s superlative skill with actors, and to the monkey.


Spite Marriage

For a fast, furious comedy it begins slowly with the hero’s adulation (a newspaper reports his name as Elmer Gantry) of a stage actress in love with her leading man, in love with a society blonde.

The first half rises to the wedding night, and ends the following morning. The surreal transformation of the second half into sea robbers and an oceangoing yacht attains the greatest speed, the film ends quietly with the marriage resumed in earnest.

Minnelli presumably studied it deeply for I Dood It.

An excellent continuous score, with sound effects and crowd noises, was provided by M-G-M.

Poor silly Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times said it was good silly Buster Keaton fun and couldn’t quite follow it.


Speak Easily

College professor Keaton goes to a speakeasy for the first time. “Speak easily,” he says, correcting those in his party.

A calm, quite sane, very funny and highly satisfying satire of Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, executed with the most superb acumen and the greatest zeal by two actors whom the critic George Bernard Shaw would hardly for a moment hesitate to describe as “hardened comedians”.


Riding on Air

The hopeless gadgeteer (Joe E. Brown) gets a miracle of inspiration and saves the day.

Sedgwick’s film is suitably complicated for this, the metaphor is an investment and partnership in the Radio Beam Plane Co., somebody else does the flying.

Two rival Chicago newspapers (our man runs the Claremont Chronicle of Wisconsin, more or less ineptly), the Crunchies essay contest, a superb con man dealing in phony shares, the girl next door and her disapproving father, and the big story from the big city about a perfume-smuggling ring.


Air Raid Wardens

Laurel & Hardy, Inc., Ltd., “they’re a wonderful front.”

They have failed in fertilizer (Chickens Come Home, dir. James W. Horne) and pets (Laughing Gravy) and are reduced to bicycles. They close up shop “to fight the Japs” and are rejected.

It’s a small town, Huxton, and gets its ode (the newspaper editor is named Civilian Defense Director).

They reopen with a partner in radios (cf. Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, dir. Irving Rapper or Anthony Harvey or Paul Newman), one Middling, a Nazi spy. They stick bills “for the war effort.”

Their stint as air raid wardens is catastrophic (defense of the town against its leading citizen, J.P. Norton, cf. Capra’s Meet John Doe), they are dismissed in great sadness (“we’ll do anything that Uncle Sam wants us to do, won’t we, Ollie”) and then stumble on a plot to dynamite the town’s new plant (Ajax Magnesium Corporation). “Bring help at once, we mean it, oygent!The great William Tell gag, told at gunpoint to shoot an apple off Ollie’s head, Stanley tells him goodbye and pulls the trigger, it flies into the mouth of the Fuhrer’s portrait on the wall behind.

They ride to the rescue in a tireless jalopy that goes off the road (“I got something in my eye, take the wheel!”) and hits a tree, a high-stepping farm nag tows them in.

The beauty of the imagery makes for the construction. Fertilizer means politics, pets are the last friends, bicycles are for refugees (the Wright brothers are nevertheless invoked), Uncle Sam says no, the enemy is here. Undoubtedly the model for De Sica’s Ladri de Biciclette.

Skretvedt, whose otherwise useful book dismisses all Laurel and Hardy that is not Roach, breathes hard on this one, too. T.S. of the New York Times adopted a vein of sophistication like a lapdog for a shitsack (and reported the audience “laughing their heads off”), Variety was extraordinarily astute (Skretvedt cites a snippet). Leonard Maltin, “weak”. TV Guide, “it does have its moments.”