Steamboat Bill Jr (1928) USA

When: Saturday mid-afternoon BUSTER KEATON DOUBLE!!
Film: 35 mm
Duration: 69 minutes
Live music: accompanist Prof Robert Constable
Presented by: Paul Byrnes

Buster Keaton stars in the story of a college-educated young man who comes home to help his father work on his Mississippi River steamboat and immediately demonstrates just what a landlubber he is. What's worse, the woman he falls for is the daughter of his father's worst rival, a bullying rich guy who wants to drive Buster's boat out of business. Keaton's slapstick is inspired and precise, particularly during an amazing sequence in which he tries to walk across town during a tornado. Watch in amazement as the front of a building falls on Keaton and he walks away without a scratch. --Marshall Fine

Flavored with Americana and loaded with cinematic inventiveness, Steamboat Bill, Jr. was Buster Keaton's final independent production, a comic masterpiece. Set on the Mississippi River, it follows the adventures of a spoiled young man who is forced by his crusty father (Ernest Torrence) to learn riverboating.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. is a funny film and was very successful upon its original release, Buster Keaton as William Canfield Jr. is a buffoon to his father but, as it turns out, resourceful when needed. Ernest Torrance’s performance is always one of the highlights of the films he acted in. The instantly recognizable character actor plays Keaton’s cantankerous steamboat-captain father. Marion Byron’s bright and charming semi-flapper performance adds to the film’s charm. Tom McGuire plays the rich antagonist J.J. King.

Buster has been raised by his sophisticated mother in Boston. His father is a rough blue-collar type, and Buster arrives on the scene for a visit, his first with his father since he was a child. Their incompatible backgrounds make for quite a bit of the early comedy in the film. Buster’s father’s chief competitor turns out to be the father of one of Buster’s college girlfriends. The obligatory Romeo and Juliet conflicts are the underpinnings of the story, which climaxes with a huge windstorm that threatens the whole town.

The film includes one of the most hair-raising and infamous stunts of the silent era. A stunt that could easily have killed Buster had anything gone awry. Fortunately, nothing did and we have available for viewing one of the great moments in film history. During a high-wind storm, the side of a house falls down and nearly flattens Buster. A moment that must be seen to be believed.