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#188. Junior

Nothing extends a person’s legacy like their children. Most people want to be known for what they have accomplished, which means that most people want to be recognizable by their name. As such, to extend their legacy, they would give their name to their progeny. However, in order to avoid confusion, the child usually has a “Junior” attached to the end of their name. This only adds to the parent’s prestige, since they will henceforth have the “Senior” added to their name as well. Sometimes this naming convention is done out of vanity, but occasionally it is done to pass on the perceived talents and gifts of the parent to the child. The real challenge comes when the child grows up. Will they follow in their parent’s footsteps, or take a completely different path? This week’s two films feature main characters with the “Junior” moniker.

Steamboat Bill, Jr.Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Year: 1928
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 70 minutes / 1.16 hours

The problem with having a “Junior” is the tendency for the Senior to live vicariously through them. Oftentimes, the parent will want the child to follow in their footsteps, carrying on a family business. The parent will put some very stringent expectations on the child that are sometimes impossible to live up to. We are all unique, so trying to create another individual who is identical to the parent can be difficult, mainly because our experiences shape our personalities. It is impossible to recreate the experiences to form another identical person. This is why a Junior will many times be a disappointment to a Senior. Of course, more often than not you will see the Junior moniker on males, which puts a heavy burden on them to achieve the success of their father. Still, these Juniors can be successful, even if it’s not in the way their family expects.

William Canfield Jr. (Buster Keaton) is a mild-mannered college student who would rather be artistic than do a hard day’s work. This is much to the chagrin of William “Steamboat Bill” Canfield Sr. (Ernest Torrence), who was hoping that his son would be a strong and burly man. He had this hope because his steamboat business was struggling and he needed an athletic son to carry on the tradition of captaining a paddle steamer by solving his current rivalry with John James King (Tom McGuire), the owner of a much better steamboat. Unfortunately, on top of his weak body, Bill Jr. is also in love with Kitty King (Marion Byron), John’s daughter. However, this doesn’t stop Junior from saving his father, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s father from the cyclone that rips apart the small town. It is in the aftermath that Steamboat Bill understands his son’s true talents and allows him to pursue his own path.

Sherlock, Jr.Sherlock, Jr.
Year: 1924
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 45 minutes / 0.75 hours

There are times where the “Junior” annotation is added to someone’s name, not because they were named after their father, but rather because they have come close to replicating the fame of another. This fame can be for a myriad of talents including playwriting, baseball, or even piloting an aircraft. These skills could be translated into a Shakespeare, Jr.; Babe Ruth, Jr.; or Charles Lindbergh, Jr. (who was actually closer to the first instance of “Junior” mentioned earlier in this post). An individual who aspires to the greatness of their predecessor will have these same skills. While this nickname might be seen as a derogatory statement, there are times when it actually inspires someone to pursue that talent even further. They see it as a compliment, and will continue to hone their talent so that they could eventually surpass the person they are named after. One such example of a predecessor “Junior” would be Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock, Jr.

We often dream of a life different from our own, and Buster Keaton (as himself) is no different. While running the projector at a local movie theater, he has time to think what his life would be like if he were a famous detective, like Sherlock Holmes. The reason behind his daydream is that he has fallen in love with a girl (Kathryn McGuire) whose father (Joe Keaton) has just found out that his pocket watch has been stolen. With the movie on the screen mimicking this situation, Keaton enters the film and takes on the personality of an observant detective. When he wakes up from his daydream, he finds out that the case he had committed to solving had been resolved. It turns out that his rival in love, a local sheik (Ward Crane), had stolen the watch and pawned it for money to buy the girl gifts to win her affection.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 jaunty Juniors

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One response to “#188. Junior

  1. Pingback: End of Act Four | Cinema Connections

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