Three Ages (1923)

Three Ages (1923)

“If you let your mind wander back through History you will find that the only thing that has not changed since the World began is — LOVE.”

In three different historical eras (the Stone Age, Roman times, and 1920s New York), a young man (Buster Keaton) vies for the attentions of a beautiful girl (Margaret Leahy) against a bigger, stronger, and/or wealthier suitor (Wallace Beery).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Buster Keaton Films
  • Comedy
  • Historical Drama
  • Rivalry
  • Silent Films
  • Wallace Beery Films

Buster Keaton’s first feature film (originally conceived as three separate two-reelers, in case it bombed as a full-length movie) is an enjoyable satire on D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), similarly presenting thematic links — here, on the challenges of romantic pursuit — between several historical eras. It’s amusing to witness Keaton’s hapless yet doggedly resilient persona facing such similar challenges in each of his iterations, and to see the immensely clever — if occasionally foolhardy — ways in which he attempts to foil his opponent. The film’s most surreal moment (just one among many): Keaton gives a lion a manicure. (!!)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Plenty of humorous moments and classically Keatonian slapstick

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly of historical interest, and a must for diehard Keaton fans.


One thought on “Three Ages (1923)

  1. Not a must.

    It’s not that it’s not among Keaton’s more memorable films – it’s certainly consistently charming and an interesting showcase for Keaton front and center at all times. But the through-line is very slight indeed – even for Keaton – and there’s an emphasis on sight-gags (albeit some very inspired ones: Keaton atop a prehistoric dinosaur; a cavewoman delirious about being dragged home by the hair – since that’s clearly ‘proof’ of a man’s love; Keaton playing football; the manicure; etc.). A welcome addition is Wallace Beery ever on the sidelines as Keaton’s ‘eternal’ nemesis; Beery doesn’t have all that much to do, but he has presence.

    This isn’t Keaton at his best or worst – it’s a mild romp.

    Fave bit: Keaton watches the woman next to him in a restaurant begin to freshen her make-up. Considering he should probably do a little ‘primping’ too, he takes out what he needs and begins shaving.

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