Buster Keaton and the Important Things in Life

A look at the father-son relationship in Steamboat bIll, jr.!

Silver Screenings

Buster Keaton loves Marion Byron, despite her father. Image: Music at the Red DoorBuster Keaton (L) woos Marion Byron, despite her father (R). Image: Music at the Red Door

There is a scene in the 1928 comedy, Steamboat Bill, Jr., that beautifully showcases the genius of its star, Buster Keaton.

It’s not the scene where he clings to a flying tree, or the scene where he piggybacks a girl while dangling from a rope over a ferocious river.

Nay, we feel the genius of Buster Keaton is the quiet scene where he goes to the jailhouse to visit his recently-imprisoned father. Keaton sits, politely, in a chair across from the sheriff’s desk and in view of his father’s cell. He has brought a ridiculously large loaf of bread with him.

Keaton begins to communicate with his father through hand gestures, even though his father is annoyed and uninterested. However, Keaton persists, aware that the preoccupied Sheriff may not be distracted for long.

First, Keaton signs to his…

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