Buster on the Run

Date Film Time
4/2 The Navigator 7 pm
4/10 College 7 pm
5/29 Early Keaton Shorts 7 pm

This small selection of Buster Keaton films features a wide assortment of Busters hoofing it across the screen. There is the wealthy Keaton of The Navigator, a certain Mr. Rollo Treadway, fleeing from a marriage proposal gone wrong; the middle-class Keaton running off to college to try and get the girl; and the working-class Keaton dashing away from both the anarchist gangs and the cops in the selection of shorts. Keaton’s class politics may have been indiscriminately muddled. He was, after all, America’s most famous child laborer, having started working in his parents’ vaudeville act at the tender age of three. But his friendly distrust of utopian systems, including scientific management, classic Hollywood narrative, and anarchist politics, has aged well. There is always, it seems, plenty to run from.

The Navigator

Thursday, April 2, 2015 7:00 PM
(Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp, 1924, US, 35mm, 59 min.)

After an unsuccessful marriage proposal Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton) decides to sail away from his sorrows by going on his honeymoon cruise alone. In his rush to get away, he leaves for the dock at night, accidentally boarding a ship that his would-be fiancé’s father has just sold to a small country at war. The intricate set-up comments on the absurdity of war and provides a brilliant excuse for a slew of gags about everything from the wealthy learning to take care of themselves (without servants, can you imagine?) to the ingenuity required to retrofit a giant cruise ship to the needs of two guests. How do you make breakfast for two in a galley meant to cook for thousands? Keaton’s favorite of his features pours a little cold water on the promise of industrial progress without blowing all of modernity out of the water.

Live musical accompaniment by David Drazin.

College

Friday, April 10, 2015 7:00 PM
(Buster Keaton and James W. Horne, 1927, US, 35mm, 65 min.)

The movie begins with high school valedictorian Ronald (Buster Keaton) giving a graduation speech on “The Curse of the Athlete.” But then, in the century-old practice of reinventing oneself at college, Ronald gives up books to try out for the baseball team. It’s all for the love of Mary (Anne Cornwall), and not for the love of baseball. The tryout ends disastrously. Next Ronald walks on to the track team, but no one runs quite like him. Will he ever have a chance to show Mary his devotion? Keaton’s virtuosic performance of failure reaches a feverish height in this lovely send up of middle-class values.

Live musical accompaniment by Jay Warren.

Early Keaton Shorts

Friday, May 29, 2015 7:00 PM

Keaton began his directorial career making two-reel shorts. He filled them to the rafters with chases and gags. These three early shorts find him caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as he pings back and forth between his angry father and his enraged, potential father-in-law in Neighbors and runs from anarchist gangs and the police in both The “High Sign” and Cops. Paradoxically both a star and a working-class performer, Keaton’s shorts portray a blue-collar world that puts little trust in liberal reformers, revolutionaries, captains of industry or middle-class managers. Introduced by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art’s Interim Film Curator Will Schmenner.

Neighbors (Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline, 1920, US, 35mm, 18 min.)

The “High Sign” (Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline, 1921, US, 35mm, 21 min.)

Cops (Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline, 1922, US, 35mm, 18 min.)

Live musical accompaniment by Jay Warren.