Buster Keaton in “Hard Luck”

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Buster Keaton comedy Hard Luck (1921), co-directed by Keaton and Eddie Cline.

Hard Luck was a film that was considered “lost” until most of it was reconstructed in 1987…and its famous ending was found and added even more recently than that.  It’s one of the more Chaplinesque of Keaton’s comedies, as Buster’s character is a jobless, hungry wanderer. The beginning of the film consists of that fairly familiar comic routine of “failed suicides”, saved from triteness by Keaton’s highly individualistic imagination. One of the best of the gags has Buster throwing himself in front of a pair of oncoming headlights…only to have them be a pair of motorcycles, which pass around him. Through happenstance he gets a job collecting animal samples for a museum, and that works out about as well as his suicide attempts. In addition, he falls in love with a girl (Virginia Fox) who is out riding, but she turns out to be married. Despondent once again, he takes a high dive into an empty swimming pool, leaving a huge crater. We assume he was successful in his bid to end it all this time. Until the notorious money shot: an epilogue, several years later, wherein he emerges from the hole with a Chinese family!

For more on comedy film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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