Monday, October 19, 2009

Seven Chances

(Clyde Bruckman, 1925)
The movie is three-quarters over before Keaton gets his first decent pratfall, and while you could argue that the slow build is part of what makes the end sequence so spectacular, there's also grounds to agree with Keaton that this material was wrong for him. What's he doing playing a stockbroker? The filmmakers wisely reduce what must have been a few scenes' worth of first-act exposition in the original stage play to a single title card, thus sparing us the details of the financial calamity that justifies the marrying-for-money scenario. You can see them cutting swaths through the material to create some outlet, any outlet, for the visual/physical scenarios that Keaton lives for; it's a good thing he's got the lovable Snitz Edwards on hand to serve the material when they can't get away with subverting it. But once the random marriage propositions start in earnest, all fuss is set aside and the film becomes one inexorable, glorious, hyper-extended crescendo, working the premise so outrageously hard that it takes on the force of nature itself - literally. Not even a full half dozen agonizing race-baiting gags can throw Keaton off his glorious, peerless stride.

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