Adapted from a rather unsuccessful Broadway farce from 1916, Seven Chances was born under an unlucky star: Keaton realised right away that the project was weak and not in line with his repertoire, but having borrowed a considerable amount of money from Joe Schenck, he did not feel in the position to turn the film down. To overcome the static nature of the play and develop his character beyond the four walls, Keaton entrusted the script to his team of writers, Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez and Joseph Mitchell: while the first half of the film is sometimes slow and not fully convincing, the second part is orchestrated beautifully and culminates in a memorable climax. Keaton told his biographer that it was the audience’s laugher during a preview which gave him the idea of boulders rolling down the hill. However, it was indisputably his comic intuition and extraordinary performance which turned a simple accident into one of the most brilliant scenes of his entire career.
For the restoration of Seven Chances we inspected and analysed 25 elements: 16 of those – from the Cohen Film Collection, The Library of Congress, the Cinémathèque française, the CNC – Archives françaises du film – were digitised and compared. For the 2-strip Technicolor opening titles three elements were digitised and compared at the colour grading unit: a decayed original positive nitrate print (44662- 2), an internegative (RR8152), and an interpositive (BND26/Sections). The latter two resulted from a restoration carried out in the Nineties which used the original positive nitrate print. At that time, the nitrate was in a better state of preservation than it is today, allowing the creation of good intermediate elements. Eventually the previous restored interpositive was chosen due to the better response at colour grading. The nitrate positive was used only for one opening title card since the others were not original. The film reconstruction used a first-generation amber-tinted positive nitrate preserved at the Library of Congress. One shot with a significant number of missing frames was completed from a second generation safety duplicate negative (RR815) held by The Cohen Film Collection. The decision to keep the amber tint was dictated by the matching label codes of the positive nitrate and Technicolor prints’ prologue.
As an additional note: comparison showed that two elements – a safety duplicate negative preserved by the Cohen Film Collection and a safety positive preserved at the Cinémathèque française – include four shots which derive from a second negative.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dalla pièce omonima di Roi Cooper Megrue. Scen.: Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph Mitchell. F.: Elgin Lessley, Byron Houck. Scgf.: Fred Gabourie. Int.: Buster Keaton, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards, Ruth Dwyer, Frankie Raymond, Erwin Connelly, Jules Cowles. Prod.: David Belasco per Buster Keaton Productions. DCP. D.: 56’. Bn.
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