Scen.: Buster Keaton, Malcom St. Clair. F.: Elgin Lessley. Scgf.: Fred Gabourie. Int.: Buster Keaton (assistente del maniscalco), Virginia Fox (donna con il cavallo), Joe Roberts (maniscalco). Prod.: Joseph M. Schenck per Comique Film Corporation. DCP. Bn.
The Blacksmith had totally disappeared until the discovery by the actor James Mason of a pile of film cans in a garden vault at the house that he had just acquired – which had belonged to Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge in the 20s. Among these was a tinted copy of The Blacksmith that was instantly deposited at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and later preserved by Blackhawk Films and Paul Killiam. This copy was also partially used by Raymond Rohauer who re-released the Keaton films at the beginning of the 60s, even if the second reel was apparently partly taken from another element. In July 2013, Argentinian historian and archivist Fernando Peña realised that the 9.5mm ‘Pathé Baby’ print he had just acquired on the internet was in fact an alternate version, containing at least four minutes that were completely different from the previously known copy. Alerted to this discovery, the Lobster Films team realised that they held a 35mm diacetate (safety) print in the collection from the original French release corresponding the same ‘alternate’ cut. However, as the 9.5mm was intended for the home cinema and to be seen by children, a scene showing a young woman undressing behind a curtain (in silhouette) had been deleted. The mystery of these two versions has been solved by some fine detectives, among them John Bengtson, Nicolas Ciccone and David Shepard. The information supplied by John Bengtson, based on keen observation of the environment and architecture in the background, offers invaluable elements of research and chronology. In August 1921, The Blacksmith was completed and ready for testing in public. The preview screening in January 1922 was disastrous and Keaton did not want to risk releasing the movie as it was, and moved on to My Wife’s Relations before reshooting certain scenes in spring 1922. Retakes were filmed outdoors to replace the disappointing sequences, and as the ending is too long, some scenes were shortened or deleted. What we had always believed to be The Blacksmith was in fact only the test print used for that preview and then rejected.