Charles Reisner

Scen.: Carl Harbaugh. F.: Dev Jennings, Bert Haines. Int.: Buster Keaton (Steamboat Bill, Jr.), Ernest Torrence (Steamboat Bill), Tom Lewis (Tom Carter), Tom McGuire (John James King), Marion Byron (Mary King). Prod.: Joseph M. Schenck per United Artists. DCP. D.: 70’ 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

As a whole, the film belongs to Keaton’s great series of masterpieces, and it is inferior to none: in fact, it’s one of the best. The historical reconstruction would be enough to beauty and glory of this film could even rely exclusively on the historical reconstruction, the poetical presentation of the humble, provincial, laggard nineteenth-century America: the old steamboat contrasts with the new; the riverside village; the barbershop and the notions store; the police station. The main characters are perfectly defined. A big cyclone resolves and ends the movie. We can’t help but note that Keaton was born in 1895 in a town called Pickway, or Piqua, in Kansas. “In true Keaton style”, wrote Emilio Cecchi, “Pickway, his place of birth, as soon as the Keatons left, was blown away by a cyclone and wiped off the map and the face of the earth forever”. For this reason, Keaton would say with comic dejection that he came from nowhere. Keaton’s original story idea revolved around a flood. “We were all ready to shoot when Harry Brand [production supervisor] didn’t like the idea and went straight to Joe Schenck. The Mississippi had burst its banks in 1927 and the newsreels of the disaster were showing all over the world. Said all I could do is change it to a cyclone, which will take a lot of rebuilding. He said, well, that’s better, do that. Now as long as he said that, I couldn’t argue him out of it. I said it’s funny, there’s nothing more serious then a war and yet in 1918 Chaplin made a picture called Shoulder Arms. I didn’t tell him that there was more people killed in the United States the past year with tornadoes than any flood had caused”.
Mario Soldati, Maestri del cinema in Tv: Buster Keaton, edited by Simonetta Campana and Massimo Vecchi, Rai, Roma 1972

Copy From

Restored in 2014 by The Cohen Film Collection at Modern Video Film laboratory.