To celebrate the birthday of the silent movie superstar, we're watching his 1925 comic western.
On this date in 1895, the iconic silent movie superstar Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas. To mark the occasion, we’re checking out Go West, Keaton’s hilarious 1925 western spoof.
What’s it all about? According to Jeff Stafford of Turner Classic Movies: “An inept, bumbling Midwestern youth named Friendless [played by Keaton] decides he's not cut out for big city life and sneaks aboard a freight train traveling west. After accidentally being deposited in the middle of the Arizona desert, the lad wanders into the Diamond Bar Ranch where he manages to find work as a cowpuncher. His complete lack of experience or skills make him the laughing stock of the ranch but he does form a loyal and affectionate friendship — possibly the only one in his life — with a female cow named Brown Eyes. When the latter is carted off to the slaughterhouse, Friendless follows in pursuit, inevitably coming to the rescue but also succeeding in driving the Diamond Bar’s herd to market in Los Angeles against all odds, including a shootout with rivals and a runaway train…
“Some Keaton scholars have suggested that Go West is a subtle satire of Charlie Chaplin’s approach to comedy with its tendencies toward wistfulness and sentimentality. Keaton subverts the audience’s expectations by playing everything poker-faced and avoiding the romantic clichés of the genre by having Friendless more devoted to the cow, who also appears to be the outcast of the herd, than trying to win the love of the ranch owner’s daughter.
“Keaton’s innate understanding of his craft and appeal was best expressed by James Agee when he wrote, ‘Keaton’s face ranked almost with Lincoln’s as an early American archetype: it was haunting, handsome, almost beautiful, yet it was irreducibly funny; he improved matters by topping it off with a deadly horizontal hat, as flat and thin as a phonograph record... No other comedian could do as much with the deadpan. He used this great, sad, motionless face to suggest various related things: a one-track mind near the track's end of pure insanity; mulish imperturbability under the wildest of circumstances, how dead a human being can get and still be alive; an awe-inspiring sort of patience and power to endure, proper in granite but uncanny in flesh and blood. Everything that he was and did bore out this rigid face and played laughs against it.’”