Our Hospitality (1923)

“Once upon a time in certain sections of the United States there were feuds that ran from generation to generation.”

Synopsis:
In the 1800s, a young man (Buster Keaton) traveling to claim his inheritance in Appalachia falls for a girl (Natalie Talmadge) he meets along the way. Soon he learns that Talmadge belongs to a family his ancestors have been feuding with for generations, and that her father (Joe Roberts) and brothers (Ralph Bushman and Craig Ward) will do anything to kill him.

Genres:

Review:
Our Hospitality is notable as Buster Keaton’s first “official” feature-length film (Three Ages, which came out two months earlier, was released as a single full-length feature, but actually created as three separate “shorts” in case it failed in its longer form). Our Hospitality demonstrates Keaton’s typically keen attention to historical detail, with several fun props — i.e., a miniature steam engine known as Stephenson’s Rocket, and a pedal-less bicycle called a Dandy Horse — actual replicas of authentic items. It also showcases several of his most inventive and daring set pieces — most memorably the peerless waterfall finale, which was filmed on a set but nonetheless placed Keaton in harm’s way several times (including sending him to the hospital once for inhaling too much water). Meanwhile, the storyline itself, while incredibly simple in concept — Keaton tries to avoid being killed! — remains humorously inventive throughout.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fun historical set pieces and props

  • Many enjoyable sight gags and scenarios


Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance as Keaton’s first (authentic) feature length film, and for its sheer inventiveness. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Our Hospitality (1923)”

  1. Not a must. A moderately entertaining Keaton outing.

    Although I’m a huge Keaton fan, there are films of his that I find it hard to recommend. I have two sources of frustration with this film. First, it takes a good half-hour to get going; the bulk of the beginning is set-up and, although he does appear a few times, Keaton really isn’t doing much of anything. Second, the last fifteen minutes or so do indeed have Keaton engaged in ‘comical’ situations dealing with a large body of water, rapids and a waterfall. And, yes, he did almost die during filming. It could be just me (though I doubt it), but I have a lot of difficulty finding humor in such death-defying situations. It just makes me too uncomfortable as an audience member.

    Halfway into the film, when Keaton gets back to his hometown – which leads to the extended sequence in which he realizes that, as long as he stays in the home of his enemies, he will not be killed – we get a reprieve with the kind of antics that make Keaton so adorable. This whole section almost makes up for the rest of the film but, as a whole, I don’t think ‘OH’ is must-see.

    Note: Although Talmadge (married to Keaton at the time) doesn’t really register here, Keaton’s 1-year-old son (playing Keaton’s character as an infant) is seen to lively advantage.

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