100 Years Ago Today: Buster Keaton Has “Daydreams”

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In November 1922 Buster Keaton released Daydreams, one of the last of his shorts.

Daydreams is made up of lots of mini-situations…almost like a bunch of separate ideas for films pooled together into an omnibus. The set-up is very much a Lloyd situation. Buster wants the hand of a girl (Renée Adorée). Her father (played by Buster’s own dad, Joe Keaton) deems him unworthy. So Buster vows that he will go the city, where he either make good, or kill himself. He takes a succession of jobs. When he writes letters to the girl he always misleads about his success. When he is a janitor he says he is “really cleaning up”. Claims to be head of sanitarium, just works in an animal hospital. Claims to work on Wall Street, just a street cleaner. Claims to be playing Hamlet in the theatre, just a spear carrier.

For some reason, about 50 cops start chasing him, as in Cops (maybe because he is on the street dressed in the spear carrier costume after being fired from the theatre). He jumps onto a trolley just to have it immediately return to its station, a gag he would revive in his 1928 feature The Cameraman. Then the film’s most memorable moment: where Keaton finds himself on the inside of a riverboat paddle wheel, compelled to keep moving as though he were a hamster on a treadmill. Finally he is thrown out into the water, where he is caught by a fisherman, who throws him back as though he were a bad fish.  He is mailed back to the girl. Her father gives him a gun to kill himself with. Buster misses, so the father kicks him out the window.

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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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