Comedy – Buster Keaton – Four Wheel Brakes – Saving A Damsel In Distress


Keaton started experimenting with parody during his vaudeville years….where most frequently his performances involved impressions and burlesques of other performers’ acts.  Most of these parodies targeted acts with which Keaton had shared the bill.…so when Keaton transposed his experience in vaudeville to film….in many works he parodied melodramas.  Other favorite targets were cinematic plots along with structures and devices.  One of his most biting parodies is The Frozen North (1922)….a satirical take on William S. Hart’s Western melodramas….like Hell’s Hinges (1916) and The Narrow Trail (1917).  Keaton parodied the tired formula of the melodramatic transformation from bad guy to good guy….through which went Hart’s character….known as “the good badman”.  He wears a small version of Hart’s campaign hat from the Spanish–American War and a six-shooter on each thigh….and during the scene in which he shoots the neighbor and her husband….he reacts with thick glycerin tears….a trademark of Hart’s.  Audiences of the 1920’s recognized the parody and thought the film hysterically funny.  However, Hart himself was not amused by Keaton’s antics….particularly the crying scene…..and did not speak to Buster for two years after he had seen the film. The film’s opening inter-titles give it its mock-serious tone….and are taken from “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service.  In The Playhouse (1921)….he parodied his contemporary Thomas H. Ince….Hart’s producer….who indulged in over-crediting himself in his film productions. The short also featured the impression of a performing monkey which was likely derived from a co-star’s act (called Peter the Great).  Three Ages (1923), his first feature-length film….is a parody of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916)….from which it replicates the three inter-cut shorts structure.  Three Ages also featured parodies of Bible stories….like those of Samson and Daniel.  Keaton directed the film, along with Edward F. Cline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button