The Scarecrow (1920) Buster Keaton, Sybil Seely, Joe Roberts, Joe Keaton, Luke the Dog, Al St. John. Director- Buster Keaton “and Eddie Cline”. Written by Buster Keaton.
Typically I try to have a lobby card of the featured movie at the top of my posts and if I can’t find a lobby card, then I go for a movie poster. This one had neither, so I’m settling for a promo photo that didn’t actually appear in the movie. It features Buster Keaton and Luke the Dog.
You don’t understand how much I am holding back in writing this. It is all I can do to avoid exclamation points. I am so excited to be finally writing a legitimate Buster recommendation (as opposed to telling you to look for him in someone else’s movie). The Scarecrow is one of Buster’s best shorts, and it’s brilliant from beginning to end. It oozes genius.
This film exemplifies all but two things I love about Buster (the two things being his dancing and his voice). Want gadgets? The beginning scene is absolutely full of them; it’s really the first time we get a glimpse of his love for inventing. Want acrobatics? Will walking across a stream on his hands do? Want stunts? There are car, horse and motorcycle chases that more than qualify. Want comedy? Some of Buster’s best gags are contained within. Want romance? It’s in there, complete with the heartache that causes Buster to pantomime pulling a knife out of his back. Want to see Buster in his underwear? Yup.
Buster liked to use many of the same actors from movie to movie and The Scarecrow has my favorite of his leading ladies, Sybil Seely. She was in 5 of Buster’s pictures- One Week, The Boat, The Frozen North, Convict 13, and this one. Also in this movie is Joe Roberts, the big guy with whom he is competing for Seely’s affections. Roberts was in most of Keaton’s two-reelers (“short films” in today’s parlance) and usually played his nemesis to one degree or another. In One Week all he did was drop a piano on Buster, but in The Goat he chased him all over town trying to arrest him, at the very least.
Buster also liked to put his own father, Joe Keaton, in his films, even though his dad hated movies- his love of earning a living was stronger. Joe was famous for being able to kick hats off of men’s heads, and though no hat-kicking occurs, high-kicking does. And Seely can kick just as high. If you look closely, you will also see Al St. John for about 5 seconds. He was a talented comic stunt guy, like Buster, but here you will see him performing the dangerous task of tying his shoe. That was sarcasm, it wasn’t dangerous at all.
Please allow me to take a moment to shine a tiny spotlight on Luke the Dog. Luke was heavily featured in many of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s films, and was owned by Arbuckle’s wife at the time, Minta Durfee. Luke’s abilities were pretty amazing and he received some decent paychecks, ultimately being contracted at $150 a week. Even after Durfee and Arbuckle divorced, Arbuckle had visiting privileges. Did I mention that Al St. John was Arbuckle’s nephew and appeared in many of his films? Okay, so I did now.
And, yes, it’s silent. Words aren’t often needed, and when they are, they’re inserted.
I was going to begin the next sentence with “if” but, because I insist, I will say “When”. When you watch The Scarecrow you will understand what the big deal about Buster Keaton is (and why I will love him unto my dying day).
And that was as objective as I could possibly be. No exclamation points. I think I should be congratulated for not gushing. You’re welcome.
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