“I don’t want the money; it has already cost me the only girl I ever loved.”
When a financially strapped young businessman (Buster Keaton) and his partner (T. Roy Barnes) learn from a solicitor (Snitz Edwards) that Keaton will inherit seven million dollars from his deceased relative if he marries that evening by 7:00, Keaton immediately proposes to his girlfriend (Ruth Dwyer), but accidentally offends her, and must search elsewhere for a bride when she turns him down.
The premise of this Buster Keaton comedy is both inspired and infuriating, the latter due to the lead character’s frustrating passivity, as well an overall sense that the entire situation could have easily been handled in a much more “rational” manner (but then, of course, there would be no comedy). With that enormous caveat stated, however, I’ll concede that there’s much comedic brilliance here to enjoy: Keaton is at the top of his game visually, and the entire affair becomes increasingly surreal on every count (which is perhaps how the film should be viewed). The image of thousands of would-be brides descending on our hapless protagonist is one that will surely linger in your memory (especially if you begin to wonder about the life story behind each of those hard-worn faces…), and Keaton’s final race to make it back home to his beloved will have you scratching your head at the diversity of the geological path he takes.
Note: My reaction to this film reminds me of how I felt while watching Brewster’s Millions (1945), where the exhaustion of watching a financially-loaded time-bomb situation play out had me unexpectedly in knots.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A clever (if mildly infuriating) premise
- Some fine visual gags
- The inspired “avalanche ending”
No, though it’s strongly recommended for its final third. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)