Cameraman, The (1928)

“Don’t be discouraged. No one would ever amount to anything if he didn’t try.”

Synopsis:
A would-be news cameraman (Buster Keaton) tries to break into the business with the assistance of a pretty MGM secretary (Marceline Day) who gives him tips on which events to cover.

Genres:

Review:
Buster Keaton’s first film made for MGM Studios (before the imminent demise of his illustrious career) was this simple yet enjoyable tale of a photographer desperate to gain work as a newsreel director — in large part to impress a sweet girl he’s fallen head-over-heels in love with. Despite fairly severe creative constraints imposed by MGM, Keaton (directed by Edward Sedgwick) manages to make the most of this slight storyline: the largely-improvised dressing room scuffle is truly inspired, and the ending is surprisingly satisfactory. While Keaton made many masterful movies — and film fanatics shouldn’t feel obligated to see all of them — I do recommend this one as “must-see” simply given the intrinsic interest of its subject matter.

Note: MGM apparently referred to this film for years as a “perfect comedy”, and showed it to all its directors and producers to learn from.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A sweet would-be romance between Keaton and Day
  • Fine slapstick by Keaton
  • Interesting historical footage of early Chinatown

Must See?
Yes, as one of Keaton’s most enjoyable (and cinematically relevant) outings. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2005.

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One Response to “Cameraman, The (1928)”

  1. Not a must. ~but let me explain…

    When it comes to Buster Keaton, I could almost easily pull a Peary…with his tendency to list most, if not all, titles of certain performers – whether they be individuals, part of a duo, or members of a group. I am a huge Keaton fan. I’m not sure if I’ve seen all of his silent films, but I’ve certainly seen many. I don’t recall him ever being bad or lacking humorous invention. But, as consistently enjoyable as Keaton is, some of his films are better than others.

    ‘The Cameraman’ is certainly a pleasant, episodic watch and it has its highlights (I esp. like the extended sequence at the pool). Some scenes are weak and don’t seem to belong in the film (i.e., the scene at the baseball field; the ‘subplot’ involving the policeman convinced Keaton is “goofy”). But the best is certainly saved for last and the final ten minutes are both exciting and heartwarming.

    As time goes by, the names of ‘the silent clowns’ seem to be less and less on people’s lips. But two seem destined to remain remembered: Keaton and Chaplin. When it comes to having a leaning toward one over the other, it’s rather like preferring The Beatles to The Rolling Stones (even if you like both). I certainly prefer Keaton, so I would always encourage ffs to watch any Keaton film. If I refer to ‘The Cameraman’ as not a must, that only means I don’t think it’s among this wonderfully talented man’s best work.

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