30.5.11

The Cameraman - 1928 Film #12

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 


(Opinions needed:
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)

13 comments:

Mythical Monkey said...

Love The Cameraman -- but then again, I love Buster Keaton, so no surprise.

As for the header, I like it. Personally I like changing the header of my blog around from time to time, usually to fit the mood of whatever era I'm reviewing. In fact, maybe I'll do that right now ...

PrettyCleverFilmGal said...

Oh man, this movie is great and is a fitting swan song for Buster. But it's heartbreaking that he had to have a swan song at all. Long live Buster!

And I like your new header too. I agree with Mythical Monkey, it keeps things fresh to change it up!

Robby Cress said...

I love Keaton in the Cameraman. I think one of my favorite scenes is when he loses his suit in the pool and then he slips off the heavy woman's suit in order to get out of the pool with nobody noticing he was naked. The whole movie though is funny and sweet from beginning to end.

Ana said...

The cameraman, one of my favourites ever. If someone sees the cameraman and doesn't fall in love with Keaton they just have no heart(that's a fact).
The gif looks adorable. That is one of the most romantic scenes with the most beautiful eyes in the history of film. I'm such a fan XD
I really don't understand how people at the MGM didn't realize the genius he was...makes me wonder how many more amazing movies we would have today to enjoy...ok, I'll better stop talking about Buster and MGM now or I'll end up in a bad mood. It's better to remember the good things or the good films like this one.
I think the new header is just perfect. Of course I don't mind a nice header of Buster but it's always nice to change it from time to time :)

Zoë Walker said...

Cool thanks I think I'll leave it for now then! The Cameraman is great, all his silent movies are my favourite buster keaton movies.
expect perhaps spite marriage, which really isn't bad! quite enjoyed it.
I think the people at MGM just wanted to protect their precious star and he wasn't given the opportunity to choose his own scripts, he was just one of their contracted performers. I know its kind of depressing to think of what he may have done if he hadn't made the move to MGM but we got The Cameraman out if it and that's good enough for me! lol

Nathanael Hood said...

I personally prefer Charlie Chaplin over Buster Keaton...but that doesn't mean that I don't have incredible love for his work! Have you ever seen the short, 10-15 minute films that he directed back in the 20s? Most of them are on youtube. Almost all of them are solid gold!

Anyway...

Anyhow...hello! My name is Nathanael Hood from Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear! Welcome to the CMBA!

I just want to invite you to my blog's blogathon. It will be taking place in about three weeks. The topic is MONSTER MOVIES FROM THE 50S!!!

I would love it if you would participate! Send me an email at nahood@ursinus.edu.

Here are links to more information:

http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2011/06/next-blogathon-monster-movie-mania.html

http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2011/07/blogathon-update.html

I hope that you'll join up!

Zoë Walker said...

sounds awesome, it'll give me a chance to brush up on the monster movie genre!!
I'll give you an email soon.

Ithankyou said...

Hi Zoe

I've given you a Stylish Blogger Award...returning the favour a little later than I said!

So, consider yourself awarded for what is most-assuredly a very stylish blog & one of the best!

http://ithankyouarthur.blogspot.com/2011/07/stylish-blogger-awards.html

Best

Paul (I thank you!)

Silent Echoes said...

What a beautiful blog.

Here is a new New York City location from The Cameraman that was not covered in my book Silent Echoes.

http://silentlocations.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/harold-buster-and-bergdorf-goodman-nyc-then-and-now/

Cheers,
John

VP81955 said...

I change my header at "Carole & Co." every Monday, varying images of Carole Lombard from different segments of her career, but then again I post just about every day. Were I less frequent, I'd probably go to a monthly header schedule.

Nice entry on a solid Buster Keaton film. I may identify a bit more with Harold Lloyd than Buster, but Keaton was a brilliant filmmaker and I still thrill to his stunts and imagination.

stampschick said...

To Nathanael Hood, who said he prefers Charlie Chaplin over Buster Keaton: Yeah, I used to say that, but not any more! I guess somewhere deep down in me, there was always a big Buster Keaton fan just screaming to get out, and this month withTurner Classic Movies was its opportunity. Buster is the October "Star of the Month." I had not really given him the chance he deserved, so enamored of Chaplin I had been. But once I saw a few of his films, I became hopelessly HOOKED! In fact, I think I'm in love!
;-)

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