Today is the anniversary of the release date of Buster Keaton’s first feature length film The Three Ages (1923).
Keaton cleverly designed it as a parody of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, which had told four stories from as many historical time periods, highlighting the similarities between human struggles across the centuries. In The Three Ages Keaton plays a “young man in love” in prehistoric times, during the Roman Empire, and the present day (1923). Keaton was hedging his bets in this manner; if the feature didn’t sell he could always break it up into three shorts and sell those. The heavy in all three sections was Wallace Beery, and the love interest a young lady named Margaret Leahy, who’d become a film actress by winning a contest. (This was her only film.)
To learn more about comedy film history please check out 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
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.