John G. ‘Jack’ Blystone, Buster Keaton

Scen.: Jean Havez, Clyde Bruckman, Joseph A. Mitchell. F.: Elgin Lessley, Gordon Jennings. Scgf.: Fred Gabourie. Int.: Buster Keaton (Willie McKay), Natalie Talmadge Keaton (Virginia Canfield), Joe Roberts (Joseph Canfield), Ralph Bushman (primo figlio di Canfield), Craig Ward (secondo figlio di Canfield), Monte Collins (il parroco), Joe Keaton (l’ingegnere), Kitty Bradbury (la zia), Buster Keaton, Jr. (Willie McKay a un anno). Prod.: Joseph M. Schenck per Buster Keaton Productions, Inc.. DCP. D.: 79’. Bn

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Our Hospitality is Buster Keaton’s second self-produced and directed (along with John G. Blystone) full-length feature, advancing the energy and the remarkable profusion of comedy routines of his two-reelers, to the demands of a coherent plot-driven feature. Flawlessly directed, narratively sophisticated, full of groundbreaking gags and the most intrepid stunts, Our Hospitality also confirmed Keaton as the most stylistically daring of the silent comedians.
The feud is introduced in the melodramatic prologue, showing the double shooting of a McKay (our hero’s father) and a Canfield. The McKay baby, Willie is taken north and raised by his aunt. Twenty years later, he receives a letter summoning him back to his birthplace to claim his father’s inheritance. On an exhausting and yet hilarious train trip from New York to Appalachia, Willie meets Virginia Canfield (Natalie Talmadge Keaton) who, ignoring their respective family-feuds leads him straight to her house, where his father (Joe Roberts, who died shortly after this film) and two brothers have sworn to kill him.
The plot is loosely based on the Hatfield–McCoy feud that involved two rural American families of the West Virginia-Kentucky area along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, between the 1860s and the early 1890s. Keaton’s decision to transpose the story to 1830 has to do with his well-known, unyielding fascination for locomotives. Unlike The General, Our Hospitality called for a slow-paced primitive steam engine to move precariously through the Arcadian, nostalgic beauty of the American landscape. The Stephenson’s Rocket – an early locomotive built in England the year before – was an ideal choice for his character’s journey and was meticulously replicated for the film.
You will learn several things watching Our Hospitality, namely, as Jim Emerson suggests: “a new method for easily collecting firewood; how to move a donkey away from railroad tracks, or vice-versa; how to improvise a boat; how to make a lady from a horse’s behind; how to put on a top hat in a low-ceilinged carriage (and why a porkpie hat is so obviously preferable), in other words, the act of seeing this movie will immeasurably improve your life”.

Cecilia Cenciarelli

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Restored in 2016 by Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with Cohen Film Collection at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory