An unimpressive but well intending man is given the chance to marry a popular actress, of whom he has been a hopeless fan. But what he doesn't realize is that he is being used to make the actress' old flame jealous.
After her husband John McKay is killed in an ongoing feud with the Canfield family, a woman takes her baby boy Willie to her sister's house in New York hoping he will never know of the feud with the Canfields. Twenty years later Willie is a grown man and he receives a letter saying he has inherited his father's estate and must travel to his family home to take possession. On the train there he meets a beautiful young woman and falls in love only to learn that she's a Canfield. He accepts her invitation to dinner and quickly realizes that the Canfield men won't kill him while he's in their home. His plan to stay there as a permanent guest is short-lived and the Canfields are soon after him. Written by
The diminutive steam engine used in the film was a faithful, mechanically accurate re-creation of Stephenson's Rocket. Equally accurate was the replica of the early bicycle ridden by Willie near the start of the film - so accurate, in fact, that according to Buster Keaton it was requested by the Smithsonian Institute for display. See more »
When the donkey refuses to move from the rail tracks, the engineer and others curve the tracks around him. The long shot that shows the train moving past the donkey, however, shows the tracks back in a straight line. See more »
This fine film represents one of the earlier attempts at "dramedy", long before the term was invented. The story has a highly realistic feel to it, yet the funny stuff is never far away.
The film does start a bit slowly as they set up the story, but things pick up quickly once the funny (but true, from an old photo) shot of 1810 Times Square hits the screen.
The little train which takes Buster to Kentucky is a hoot, and THAT is based on the real 1830's deal, too. Movable, bumpy, flimsy tracks and a couple nutty characters and situations are highlights.
My favorite bit in the whole film, though, is when poor Buster realizes the fabulous mansion he thought he was inheriting turned out to be a broken-down shack, ending his dreams in spectacularly explosive fashion.
The story was strong and believable, and the climactic (and very dangerous) scenes at the river and waterfall were amazing. As a matter of fact, these scenes are so impressive, it's easy to forget that they are funny; this is the only reason for me to not give the movie a 10.
Side note to those who have said the poor soundtrack detracted from the film: If you EVER have the opportunity to see this or other silent movies in their proper environment (A glorious movie palace with live musical accompaniment by theatre organ or an orchestra), DO it! The "half-live, half-canned" aspect is very important to the enjoyment of silents. It also keeps any film you've seen many times (as is often the case with "The General" or "Phantom") fresh. Even the same organist doesn't play the same film the same way every time, and a different organist can accompany the film in such a different way that it can almost fool you into thinking you're seeing a new movie.
I'm one of those lucky enough to have done so and there's nothing quite like it.
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