(Buster Keaton Productions Inc., USA, 1923)
Dir.: Buster Keaton, John Blystone script: Jean Havez, Clyde Bruckman, Joseph Mitchell
Cast: Buster Keaton (Willie McKay), Natalie Talmadge (Virginia Canfield), Joe Roberts (Joseph Canfield), Ralph Bushman (Clayton Canfield), Craig Ward (Lee Canfield), Monte Collins (Reverend Benjamin Dorsey), Joe Keaton (Lem Doolittle), Kitty Bradbury (Aunt Mary), Buster Keaton Jr. (Willie McKay)
DCP, 74’, tinted, intertitle/subtitle: EN/PL, restored 2018, source: Lobster Films
In the town of Rockville, the McKay and Canfield families have been engaged in a bloody feud for generations. When John McKay dies, his widow escapes with her young son to New York. Twenty years later, Willie McKay finds out about this tragic history when he decides to move back to Rockville to inherit the family estate. On his way there, he meets a lovely girl and falls in love with her, unaware that she is Virginia Canfield, whose father and two brothers have sworn revenge against the last of the McKays...
Buster Keaton’s first full-length masterpiece, the film shows off his creative imagination and the full precision of his performance. This excellent comedy, inspired by the famous conflict of the Hatfield and McCoy families from the second half of the nineteenth century, is characterised by excellent development of the dramaturgy, great editing that allows the narrative to flow, beautiful scenery and lots of laughs – although in contrast to many other films of the genre, the gags here serve the story. Keaton wanted to prove that comedy was something more than simple buffoonery, so the film implemented the principle of "teaching while playing", where the serious issue of violence is treated in a light-hearted way, which exposes its absurdity and gives the picture its universal dimension.
Taking advantage of the large amount of creative freedom that he was given for the first time, Keaton set the story back in the 1830s, which allowed him to reconstruct the realities of that era - including the Stephenson's Rocket steam engine (the comedian was a devotee of the railways) - and utilise them as additional sources of comedy (as in the case of Willie's bicycle). As was his custom, the actor performed all the stunts in the film, which almost cost him his life in the final sequence when the rope on which he was hanging over the river broke.
Representatives of three generations of the Keaton family were all present on the set: Joe, the comedian’s father, Buster himself and his son Buster Jr. The actor’s wife, Natalie Talmadge, for whom the role of Virginia remained her only major one, was pregnant at the time with her second child. (KW)
Translated by: Paweł Włochacz
April 6 | 17.00 | Iluzjon cinema