Buster Keaton's The Cameraman, I don't feel like I need to say anything more than that! But I guess a few words are necessary.
After 11 years of putting his creativity to the screen Buster Keaton was forced to shut up Buster Keaton Productions due to money woes after a few unsuccessful costly films that included Steamboat Bill Jr and The General. He regretfully accepted a position at the MGM lot. He became one of MGM's pampered performers at the assembly line, a position that is hard to associate with Buster Keaton, the daredevil of silent comedy. However his move to MGM produced one film that you could place on a pedestal next to his previous amazing films. That is The Cameraman of course, and it is classic Buster. This film marked the end of his glory years, its fitting to as I haven't seen a Buster Keaton film quite as emotional as this. I suppose just knowing that his career fizzled out after this production makes it an emotional watch for a fan. Although he wasn't given complete control, because the directing duty was passed over to Edward Sedgwick (who would also direct his last silent film Spite Marriage), for the most part he was allowed to do his thing and he did partially direct (although uncredited), if only MGM allowed him to carry on doing it!.
Buster Keaton plays a tintype portrait photographer who falls hopelessly and hard for Sally (Marceline Day), a lovely young thing who works at MGM's newsreel offices. Enraptured and in typical Buster fashion he plays out the whole film whole heartedly but modestly trying to please her and win her over, its not easy as he finds competition wherever he goes. He wants a job at the newsreels to impress Sally, so he sells his photo camera for a stodgy looking film camera. Sally helps out Buster, he had previously attempted to film a fire, but had trouble getting to it, she gives him a tip off about a job in gangwar Chinatown. He films all this amazing footage, whilst fending off Chinese gangsters trying to kill him. Thanks to Buster's new trustful monkey friend (Josephine the monkey) he comes out alive. Buster leaves us dumbfounded when he returns to the offices to show off his work only to find he had forgotten to put the film in the camera! But never fear he brings us back again. That's what's great about Buster Keaton's movie's he always falls on his butt but he eventually comes back fighting and in the most unimaginable of circumstances. During the crazy Chinatown sequence is where the film moves on a whole other level, this occurs half way through the movie. In the first half Keaton delivers wondrously funny sight gags. In one he travels to a stadium and ends up pantomiming a baseball match on an empty field, when he learns the game he hoped to film is being played elsewhere.
To me The Cameraman is Buster Keaton's most romantic movie, all his films are romantic as hell but this film just has many fleeting romantic moments between Keaton and Day that are truly priceless and beautifully done. Buster scrounges up some money to take Sally on a date, they take an adventurous bus ride (to say the least) to the cities public pool. Poor Buster just can't catch a break, really spectacular gags occur at the pool. Whilst Buster and another man attempt to change into their swimwear in a tiny changing room built for one, Sally is being swarm by a pack of wet males, but just in a knick of time Buster appears in an extremely loose fitting swimsuit looking a sorry sight (but so adorable!). When he retrieves his queen he attempts to show off some high dives only to have his swimsuit fall off!! How he recovers from this hilarious, nightmarish circumstance will be left a mystery....
As a whole the film feels different to his previous achievements, because of the lack of stunts, but it shouldn't be missed, it's still really fun filled and quite touching. The Cameraman features on TCM quite a bit, so stay tuned.
|"I'll Wait" |
Buster Keaton and Marceline Day
(that dreamy gif, is from here, she is like the queen bee of gifs).
Say it ain't so's:
- This movie was thought to be lost forever until a print was found in Paris in 1968. And another print of almost the entire film was found in 1991. Both prints can be seen today, the latter is of much higher quality.
- This film was used for many years by MGM as an example of a perfect comedy. The studio would get all its directors and producers to watch it and learn. Only two scenes were improvised on the spot by Buster Keaton: one was the baseball scene, and the other is the piggybank scene.
- According to Rudi Blesch's biography of Buster Keaton, he came on the set the first day of shooting and, unaware of his reduced status as actor-only, began to "feel" for comedy bits and request props and characters, as he had with his own company. Director Edward Sedgwick took him aside and told Buster that he was undermining his directorial authority. Buster genuinely apologized and faded into the background. Sedgewick couldn't get the set-ups he wanted, couldn't get the actors to understand his direction, and eventually gave up and asked Buster to take over. As quietly as he had left, Buster regained control of the scene. Buster began to call Sedgewick "Junior" and they became fast friends.
|Buster Keaton with director Edward Sedgwick|
I would like to know what you think of my new header, I showed it to a few people and they frankly said they didn't like it as much as my Buster Keaton headings! lol. Should I bring back Buster To my title? you might have noticed I've been changing it quite a bit, I just can't settle on one, help)