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Buster Keaton in The Cameraman (1928)

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Buster Keaton in The Cameraman (1928)

Postby bobhopefan1940 » July 20th, 2007, 11:24 pm

~ Beware: If you fear 'fangirl' type musings, click the back button now ~

I took this from another board I like to write reviews on...

Here we go... Buster Keaton. A cute little monkey. What more could you want? How much more 'cuteness' could you handle before just having to turn away from the screen out of overwhelming adorability?

The Cameraman, 1928

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Buster Keaton (Buster) Marceline Day (Sally) Harold Goodwin (Stagg) Sidney Bracy (Editor) Harry Gribbon (Cop) Edward Brophy (Man in changing room) Vernon Dent (Fat man in tight bathing suit)

There are many types of photographers in the world: war, fashion, news... Then there's Buster Keaton. He shoots 10c tin types for the general public (that is, anyone who will stand still long enough for him to take the shot). Finally he gets a customer! A young man is willing to take him up on the offer, but suddenly a crowd swarms him... In all the humanity knocking him about, he gets scrunched next to the most beautiful lady he's ever seen. Instantaneously smitten, after the crowd suddenly departs he pleads for her to allow him to take a photograph. "I make them look just like you, miss," he says. His camera looks like it came straight out of the 1800's, but he is not deterred.

Finally, she agrees.

This begins a whole string of events, where he tries to find someway to become a part of her life. His character is so sweet and sincere, but quite eccentric. Sort of a fumbling fellow, alot like Lloyd's characterizations. In fact, the entire time I was watching this movie I couldn't believe how much it reminded me of Lloyd's comedy. It's not that different from Keaton's other works, but he seems a bit more of a humble guy... And you may ask how Keaton could get anymore humble than in his earlier comedies. Somehow he accomplishes it here, a bit more pitiful perhaps. You feel pain when those around him laugh and mock him.

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Keaton plays the guy everyone wonders about. Ever known one of those people that you are just not sure where they are coming from? They are odd, and you don't know whether to dig deeper into who they are or just run? Here is one of those people, but once you get by the eccentricity you find they have feelings and longings just like everybody else. That's how I felt when I watched this film, I felt sorrow for anyone I have ever laughed at or made fun of just because they were different. Everyone does that at some point in their life, right? I know I have.

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There's a spot in this movie I just got the biggest kick out of as a Keaton fan... It's got to be the scene where he is in the baseball park! Keaton, playing baseball with himself and an imaginary ball - It doesn't get any better than that!

Wait, that is until Buster runs full force into a organ grinder and his monkey. After hurrying to his feet, off to catch a news story, everyone suddenly realizes there has been a casualty of the hit: A cute litte monkey!

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"You kill-a de monk!" says the grinder, and poor Buster has to pull out all his dimes just so he can take the dead primate with him. But - Just as he sets the little guy down (who I have heard was named Josephine), he comes to life. After rubbing the bump on his poor little head, he then clings to Buster for the rest of this wonderful movie.

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Buster with Josephine on the set:
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There are so many bright spots in this film, I can't sit here and type them out... There's the one where Buster loses his suit in the pool, where he has to pull out all his dimes to pay for a ticket stub, and the most memorable image: Buster shutting his eyes in overwhelming affection as he stares over his tin type machine at Sally - A moment featured in the beginning of TCM's Silent Sunday Nights spot. If you have any amount of interest in Keaton or silents, please make sure you catch this one when it airs on the 30th of August. I've only seen it once thus far, but it is pure cinema magic. All this before Keaton wore into the most trying years of his life. This was the very beginning of his trials at MGM, but luckily this one seemed to go unscathed by Leo.

So, I loved it... It's my favorite movie. Did I mention Buster rocks? :P
"How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child." --Judy Garland
"To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune." --Charlie Chaplin
"Dumb show is best for screen people, if they must appear in public." --Buster Keaton

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Postby movieman1957 » July 21st, 2007, 6:15 am

Another Keaton gem. Sometimes I like the most subtle bits. One of my favorites, and it caught me by surprise when I first saw it, was the ride on the fire truck.

That he jumps on in the hopes of a big story only to wind up back at the station is funny. His reaction is priceless. That he mounted the camera on the side of the truck was ahead of its time (I think.)

I paid a lot for the VHS tape some years back. I'm glad I did. It was one of the few times I talked myself into something because I thought I may never get another chance.

Wonderful movie.

I'm anxiously awaiting the "Summer Under The Stars" for Buster in August.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 21st, 2007, 6:35 am

Very nice post BHF1940! I enjoyed reading your review very much.

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Postby bobhopefan1940 » July 22nd, 2007, 2:02 pm

Thank you, and thanks for the comments fellas.

I noticed alot of the camera work in this film was very nifty, especially the firehouse scene. It's so true that Keaton's subtle moments are really what to watch out for.

Does anyone know how much freedom Keaton had working on this one? I have heard he had quite a bit, and basically diected it - Even though the titles credit the direction to someone else.

Isn't it wonderful how the little monkey's cap mirrors Buster's? :D
"How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child." --Judy Garland

"To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune." --Charlie Chaplin

"Dumb show is best for screen people, if they must appear in public." --Buster Keaton

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Postby Gagman 66 » July 22nd, 2007, 3:46 pm

Danielle,

:D Excellent review of THE CAMERAMAN, I could not have done any better! On the TCM BUSTER KEATON COLLECTION DVD set, there is a Documentary called SO FUNNY IT HURT, BUSTER KEATON AT MGM. In it, you can see some behind the scenes footage of this movie actually being filmed on the street's of Manhattan! Buster attracted an unbelievable crowd of on-lookers even in 1928!. I'm sure Keaton spent a fair amount of time behind the Camera, and that seems to be in evidence in this footage.

:? I think Buster maintained the vast majority of his creative control on the film, although Eddie Sedgewick the credited Director was a talented film-maker in his own right and a very capable Comedy director. He had worked on several William Haines features, such as WEST POINT (1927) with Joan Crawford. Sedgewick was likely the assigned Director by MGM, as such it may have been in his contract to take the on-screen credit? Note that it does say "A Buster Keaton Production" on the opening credits of both THE CAMERAMAN, and SPITE MARRIAGE!

:( One thing that you may not know, at least one sequence from THE CAMERAMAN has been lost. Buster filming a boat launching as it promptly sinks! The gag was later recreated in a 1930's Two-reeler.

:roll: You might also notice that the TCM version of the film was compiled from a couple of different prints, the early sequences are not in nearly as good of a condition, as most of the rest of the film. The better footage, was not discovered until 1991! So a fairly recent find. Prior to that only one worn out print of this movie was known to exist in the MGM vaults. Legend tells that it had been used as a training film for up and coming screen comedians? Which sounds very odd indeed, but true. By the late 1960's the film had been run so many times it was literally falling apart!

:lol: The exuberant Monkey seen in THE CAMERAMAN has frequently been misidentified over the years as the same one that Harold Lloyd had used in his 1927 production of THE KID BROTHER. However, it seems that this is not accurate? The Monkey featured in THE CAMERAMAN was named "Jocko", while Lloyd's Monkey from THE KID BROTHER was known as "Chicago". If you take a good look at both of these simian's closely, it is fairly easy to tell that they are not the same animal.

:roll: Unlike Chaplin who habitually plastered his name all over the credits, both Keaton and Harold Lloyd were extraordinarily modest when it came to their own contributions to their work. Keaton generally listed a co- director, and rarely took soul-credit. Lloyd almost never took Directorial credit for his films, instead He routinely passed that on to his chief Gagmen. Though Harold was really above all of them. He spent as much time behind the camera as anyone did during production, and nothing went to print without his say so. Just like Keaton, Lloyd's supervision and security of every stage of production was constant.

:) The most interesting paradox is that the fact that all three Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd during the Silent Days, worked without a shooting script! So much of their humor was spontaneous embellishment, improvised during the course of the shooting. They would try things this way that way, than another, until finally achieving their aim. Ultimately, that's what made their films so magical!

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Postby bobhopefan1940 » July 22nd, 2007, 5:06 pm

8) Thank you so much! What a fascinating post and very informative, too :D And I especially want to thank you for the monkey's real name, Jocko! I've read some into the film on Buster's LiveJournal, at which point the folks over there settled on the name Josephine... There was some controversy as to what his real name was, though.

I was thinking about watching that Keaton documentary tonight, as a matter of fact (thanks to you). Seeing Buster at MGM makes me a little sad, though, but I'm always up for seeing some behind the scenes footage. I watched Spite Marriage last night and loved it! Poor Buster, the scene where he tries to get his drunk wife in bed was so funny... :lol:

I did not know some of the film was still lost, do you by chance know the name of that two reeler from 1930?

After seeing the Arbuckle films with Buster, I've learned to admire the shooting of a film with no apparent script! I think it attests to just how funny these guys were, something I think would be impossible for many comedians today.

I'm not very good with reviews, but I just loved this one so much :D
"How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child." --Judy Garland

"To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune." --Charlie Chaplin

"Dumb show is best for screen people, if they must appear in public." --Buster Keaton

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Postby Gagman 66 » July 22nd, 2007, 7:51 pm

Danielle,

:o Just to avert potential confusion, the Keaton Documentary found on the TCM Archives DVD set, was a recent project from Kevin Brownlow's Photo-play Productions. This one was produced just a few years ago in 2004. While the Three part BUSTER KEATON: A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW, I mailed you a copy of last week, was produced for Thames, in 1987. So these are not the same documentaries. The newer one called SO FUNNY IT HURT: BUSTER KEATON AT MGM, and is only 45 minutes long, not almost Three-hours!

:? I believe that TCM tried to acquire the DVD rights to A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW, but was not successful for some reason? Though I know that it has been aired by them in the past.

:x Another thing that you should know, the laser-disc version of A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW, that this DVD-R was made from for some reason did not included the original production credits seen in the Television version, and on the VHS release? Instead you only hear the closing music, as a still of Buster remains in place! I was not real happy about this, because the background images changed as the credits rolled on the original production, but here we do not see this?

:) Subsequently, A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW was released about a year and a half ago, on DVD in PAL format over in Great Britain. However, I don't know if the series credits after each episode have been restored, because I have not seen the DVD? The documentary was included as a part of another box set, which has so far not offered here in the United States?

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Postby bobhopefan1940 » July 22nd, 2007, 9:27 pm

:x So sorry, I read the package wrong! I'm actually glad :D Three hours of Buster as compared to 45 minutes is alright with me :wink:

None the less, I'll probably watched the first part tonight.
"How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child." --Judy Garland

"To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune." --Charlie Chaplin

"Dumb show is best for screen people, if they must appear in public." --Buster Keaton

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Postby charliechaplinfan » January 15th, 2008, 2:25 pm

Hi I've just joined. Despite the name I'm a huge fan of Buster too. The Cameraman is one of my favorite Keaton films. He plays the slightly eccentric person who you're never sure if you should befriend. The sweetness of this comedy and the lightness of touch in showing Buster's love for Marcelline and her growing love for him, how expressive is the scene were he sniffs her hair when he first meets her.

Couple that with the riotous scenes in the public baths and his ride on a fire engine. This is one of the most perfect comedies ever made.

I've watched A Hard Act to Follow about Buster's life and career, it's a very good documentary but it is sad in parts but it does end on a good note because Buster did live to see the resurgance of interest in his career.

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Postby movieman1957 » January 15th, 2008, 3:19 pm

Glad you are here. Plenty to talk about with Keaton and Chaplin. THere is also a thread in general on Buster that you can get to http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis/viewtopic.php?t=178

This is one of my favorites as well. So many wonderful gags.

(Be sure and look through some old pages as well.)
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

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Postby charliechaplinfan » January 15th, 2008, 4:30 pm

Thank you movieman I've left a message there :)

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Postby Damfino » March 8th, 2008, 5:25 am

A Hard Act to Follow is so good because it looks at the bad as well as the good times. It is wonderful to know he was 're-discovered' before the end of his life and jsut as good is that nearly all his movies survive, even if some aren't in perfect condition.

I love The Cameraman, it is a perfect film in the real sense. I do find the scene in the changing room very painful to watch though.

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Postby charliechaplinfan » March 8th, 2008, 2:45 pm

I like how his eyes say more than a thousand words when he stares at Marcelline from behind his camera. It's sheer poetry on film :D

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Postby Avalon » March 19th, 2008, 12:24 pm

This is one of my all-time favorites. :) The scene where he goes to rescue Sally on the beach, then falls to his knees when she runs off with the other fellow, always breaks my heart.

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Postby charliechaplinfan » March 19th, 2008, 2:21 pm

I love the whole scene at the public baths. From Buster counting his cents to get into the pool, to his battle to get into his costume (how do they do those scenes and not laugh) to his nearly being drowned by Marcelline's admirers to Buster loosing his costume when he dives into the pool. (a fellow fan told me if you look close enough he is indeedwithout costume :oops: 8) )

Apart from the fun in the scene it's a chance to see society of the 1920's in their recreational time. Seems only the costumes have changed. You still get people jumping in where they shouldn't etc.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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