Two Buster Keaton silent movies feature in the 1001 Movies book: The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr. I can’t even find the words to describe how great these movies are, and what a fantastic comedic actor Buster Keaton is! (I can’t find the phrases, either, judging by that poor sentence structure.)
Buster Keaton is the original physical humour actor (I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?). In a time when CGI didn’t exist, he stumbles onto the front “cow catcher” part of a moving train, he stands fixedly while an actual brick wall falls down, encircling him perfectly in an open window, he misses his footing and falls of the end of a dock into a raging river. After mentioning to my husband that he’s virtually a circus performer, I found out that his parents were, in fact, Vaudevillian comedians who travelled with in a show that included their friend, Harry Houdini. It makes so much sense now!
In Steamboat Bill, Jr. Keaton joins his father’s riverboat crew, and falls Romeo-and-Juliet like for the daughter of an upscale riverboat competitor. The antics really amp up when a cyclone hits town, which is when the aforementioned falling wall stunt occurs.
The General takes place during the Civil War. Keaton is the engineer of a train called “The General” which is stolen by Union Spies. The climax of this movie involves a train bridge collapsing as a train is passing over it, a stunt that was (and still is) the most expensive sequence in a silent movie. Take a look:
Peter Sellers plays three of his best characters in Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It’s hard to point to one thing that makes this darkly satirical movie so brilliant – and alarmingly relevant today. Is it the Doomsday Machine as a deterrent to nuclear war? Fluoridation as a devious communist plot? No fighting in the War Room?
A Hard Day’s Night is actually a fun day in the life of the Beatles in 1964. We get to enjoy their humourous antics while they sing some songs and prepare for a live TV appearance. This may in fact be the perfect COVID lockdown movie.
EVERYONE in An Affair to Remember is a vertitable Good Guy. When Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr meet on a sailing journey and fall in love, they agree to take 6 months to break up with their respective partners, find proper employment, and then meet atop the Empire State. Even when things go awry, the ex-boyfriend sticks around to help Deborah Kerr sort out her life and repeatedly encourages her to get in touch with the man she truly loves, and the ex-girlfriend similarly offers simple supportive friendship to Cary Grant. WHAT kind of make believe land IS this??? Quick aside: Deborah Kerr might be one of my favourite actresses of all time. I love her.
In another dazzling array of Good Guys, George (‘Hannibal Smith’) Peppard falls for Audrey Hepburn – and really, who wouldn’t? – in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The real crime of this movie is how long it took me to finally watch it. Audrey Hepburn is an adorable, party-throwing, delightful socialite who charms the pants off her neighbour (almost literally) George Peppard. And just when you thought this movie couldn’t get any cuter, there’s even a cat named Cat. Spoiler – everything ends happily! Quick aside #2: Audrey Hepburn is in a close race with Deborah Kerr for the winning the distinction of Risa’s Favourite Actress.