Evil oil barons have given the Indians one day to vacate their land. The Indian chief tells his braves to kill the first white man they see. Buster shows up chasing a butterfly. Later he keeps moving the stake to which he is tied and at which he is to be burned. He becomes one of the tribe and helps them with their fight. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the early days of silent films Indians were inevitably the all purpose villains. For those who think that it was not until such post World War II films as Devil's Doorway, Broken Arrow, and Fort Apache that the Indian point of view was filmed, The Paleface, a comic short subject by Buster Keaton was the granddaddy of those other classics.
In fact the villains are really modern ones, would you believe oil company executives interested in the almighty profit at the expense of everything else. But oil was shortly to be cast in infamy with the American public in the form of the Teapot Dome Scandal which would break a couple of years later. Even then there was a stench emanating from Wyoming and people were asking questions.
The oil company has discovered oil on Indian land and has summarily ordered them off. The Indians are naturally upset and the chief Joe Roberts promises to kill the next white man who sets foot on the reservation.
Who should it be, but poor innocent butterfly collector Buster Keaton, as innocent here as his comic rivals Harry Langdon or Stan Laurel. The great stone face leads the Indians on quite the merry chase and with a little help from asbestos, survives a burning at the stake. With what we know now, one also shudders at the mesothelioma Buster acquired from that experience.
Knowing this man is something special, The Paleface becomes a leader of the tribe and they successfully battle oil company encroachment. By the way one of the vignettes in the James Stewart film The FBI Story deals with just this question, Indians being cheated out of their land by oil company speculators. Of course it was dealt with a bit more seriously than in The Paleface.
Not too much similarity between this and the Bob Hope-Jane Russell feature film classic, The Paleface. Hope also nearly got burned at the stake, but his escape was different, one classically different method from another great comedian.
The Paleface is a real good introduction to the comic art of Buster Keaton.
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