Buster Keaton’s first film for MGM, and “first film BK made with a prepared script”. Silent. Unbelievably highly rated considering how lame it seemed to me.

Keaton costars with Marceline Day (60+ movies in a decade, stopped acting in ’33, lived till 2000). This is only a year after Sherlock Jr., The General and College, and just a few years before his career had completely devolved into junk like What, No Beer?. The beginning of the end for Buster!

So he “acts” in this one… he has facial reactions, falls in love, looks angry and sad and everything. No more blank faced humor. Scene in a pool changing room that was so long and obvious I started looking at the records on the wall instead of the movie. All sorts of trouble.

Keaton is a “tintype” photographer, charging for portraits on the street, when he meets M. Day. He follows her to the newsreel office where she works, trades in the tintype for an expensive (for him) ol’ beat-up movie camera. Tries to be johnny on the spot with the news, but can’t compete with the big fellas. So Day gives Buster a tip on the Chinatown riots, which Buster covers himself in the only great scene… putting himself in mortal danger with his accidentally acquired new pet monkey sometimes running the camera, making it all the funnier when the news fellas later see the footage and declare it the best camera work they’d ever seen. But first Buster has to be sadly disgraced and lose his girl to a showoffy strongman then he has to disgrace the strongman via a daring speedboat rescue, regaining the girl and securing a job at the news place. And everyone is happy except for the strongman (no girl, probably no job) and me (only two funny scenes, Buster losing his distinctive personality with no apparent gains). Not a waste of time or anything, don’t recommend against it, just sorta personally disappointing.

Sign on the door: “Ladie’s dressing rooms”

Limelight 1

Five years after Monsieur Verdoux, twelve after The Great Dictator, and his third-to-last movie. This would be an interesting one to read more about. Charlie plays a clown (Calvero), used to be the most famous in the country but now all washed up. Meets a ballerina on the verge of success but with suicidal tendencies. She tells of a songwriter she once fell for, but insists she’s now fallen for Calvero, wants to marry him. He says that’s ridiculous, that he’s a failing old man and she’s a lovely young woman. Interesting philosophy, since Chaplin (63) wrote + directed and the lead actress (21) was much closer in age to Chaplin’s real wife (26). Anyway, they help each other out, Calvero fades away and lets the girl do her own thing without him. Doesn’t work – she tracks him down, gets him huge sold-out final gig, after which he conveniently dies leaving her to her dark handsome composer and a future as a world-famous ballerina

Limelight 2

Not a comedy, drama all the way, with a few funny bits. Sweet story, good looking movie, totally enjoyed it. I guess the most “personal” movie I’ve seen of his… seems more so than the Great Dictator.

At Calvero’s final gig, he’s doing some of the same jokes he does at the beginning of the movie that get walkouts and disinterest. But at the big sold-out show, audiences are hooting their appreciation, thunderous applause, love love loving it. The jokes haven’t gotten better, but the reception has. Old star suddenly propped up by current new stars and given a benefit gig with hugely overappreciative audience, seemed to me like the crowd is applauding themselves for supporting the old man, the kind of award-show self-important applause that has more to do with being important enough to attend the Big Event and cultured enough to recognize the Famous Talent than it does the actual performance. Don’t know if that’s what Chaplin intended, but anyway, the applause made Calvero feel a whole lot better.

Buster Keaton was in it!

Limelight 3