Buster Keaton in “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”


May 20 is the anniversary of the release date of the Buster Keaton feature Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), co-directed by Chuck Reisner.

This was Keaton’s final independent film, and one of his best. The story: dandified college boy Buster tries to prove himself to his riverboat captain dad (Ernest Torrence), and win the heart of the daughter (Marion Byron) of his dad’s rival. The Mississippi setting unavoidably evokes Mark Twain.


The climax contains Buster’s most famous film sequence…the brilliantly staged hurricane, culminating in his most well known single shot, with the building facade falling down around him, while the real life Buster stands there frozen praying to God they measured the window right. A movie as beautiful as it is funny.

For more on comedy film history, including Buster Keaton classics like “Steamboat Bill Jr”  please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube

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