#371. Stories through Time

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is partly due to those people who don’t learn from history and are therefore doomed to repeat it. While most movies usually span a short timeframe, there are a few out there that manage to cover almost the entirety of human existence. Some even go so far as to speculate what the future would bring for humanity. After all, if humans keep making the same decisions and mistakes in the past, what could possibly change that habit in the future? These parallel storylines are often used to prove some point to the audience. While it can be interesting to see how people in ancient times acted in the same way we do, sometimes the message the filmmaker is trying to make is beaten home too much. This week’s two films use multiple stories throughout time to tell a story.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

In telling multiple stories that span a long time period, each individual story is practically a short film in itself. The epic scale of the run-time for these films is merely a product of the multitude of stories that need to be told. During the early days of movies, short films were the norm, so stringing four of them together to tell a larger narrative was certainly doable. D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) manages to span a timeframe from 539 BC all the way to 1914 AD, stopping off around 27 AD and 1572 AD in the process. This film was so impactful, not only as a form of apology for The Birth of a Nation (1915) but for inspiring at least one parody: Buster Keaton’s Three Ages (1923). Both films highlight the fact that humans have remained the same for a very long time.

Throughout the ages, intolerance has been a problem for humanity. The similarities between Cyrus the Great of Persia (George Siegmann), the Pharisees of Israel, and the Catholics of France all show how being intolerant of others leads to great destruction, pain, and death. Sometimes, the people being affected by the intolerance have their own intolerance against their persecutors, with a few notable exceptions. Even in modern times, money fuels the prejudice between businessmen and the workers they exploit. In the end, this intolerance isn’t necessarily based on the color of one’s skin, but instead on how one group of people has a prejudice against a different group of people who might threaten the wealth and power they’ve grown used to over the years. Aside from the obvious lesson that intolerance has been around for a long time, we also see that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 172 minutes / 2.87 hours

While Intolerance covered about 2.5 centuries of stories, some modern films have gone from the beginning of time to the present day. The Tree of Life (2011) didn’t have nearly as many stories to tell, but the range was much greater. In contrast, Cloud Atlas (2012) only covers just over 450 years. However, Cloud Atlas examines the future as well via its parallel stories. While other movies that cover long timespans in short chunks will use the collective history lesson to sell a moral, Cloud Atlas speculates what the distant future will be based on what we know about human behavior. More to the point, Cloud Atlas shows us how individuals can span centuries in various forms, sometimes taking the spotlight or sometimes acting in a supporting role. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, I think we can all agree humans have the same basic thought processes that affect global history.

Actions have consequences, even if they’re not immediately apparent. Individuals who support the abolition of slavery in 1849 could affect the post-apocalyptic world of Hawaii in 2311. For instance, the 1849 journal of Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) could influence Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who gains credit for “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” via blackmail. This piece of music could influence Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), a journalist in 1973 San Francisco who escapes an assassination attempt after uncovering a nuclear conspiracy. Rey’s life could be novelized and read by Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who is accidentally committed to an asylum. Cavendish’s memoir could be turned into a movie that helps shape the revolution of the human clone known as Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) in 2144 Seoul. This revolution leads to Zachry (Tom Hanks) and his tribal people worshipping Sonmi-451 in 2331.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 timeless tales

#370. D.W. Griffith

Some directors may have been prolific, but then there are directors like D.W. Griffith. In the 23 years of his career, he directed over 500 movies. Most of these films were directed before 1914, as Griffith made the newfound medium of filmmaking his playground to discover and cement many of the film techniques we know today. It’s weird to think the close-up shot wasn’t widely used before Griffith made it a standard. It is also interesting to note that Griffith worked almost exclusively in the medium of silent films. Of his 518 movies, only two were with sound: Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931). These were the last two films he ever directed. With a catalog of movies this large, there are bound to be a few gems. This week’s two films highlight some of the most significant films D.W. Griffith ever directed.

The Birth of a NationThe Birth of a Nation
Year: 1915
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

Partly because the length of a reel of film was a technical limitation, many directors of the silent era made their movies on a single reel of film. At a length of 1,000 feet, silent movies could fit about 15 minutes of footage on a single reel. Longer movies would often advertise their run-time in terms of reels. With so many short films in circulation, it was a little odd to find D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) was comprised of a whopping 12 reels. Even modern movies rarely break a three-hour run-time, but this silent spectacle certainly does. With movies like this, D.W. Griffith ushered in the era of the “feature-length” movie. He showed how much could be done in 12 reels of film, not only in terms of plot but also in terms of the creative and artistic methods used to tell a story of this length.

The Camerons of South Carolina enlist to fight the Civil War and soon find that Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is the only surviving son of his two brothers. His headstrong attitude caused him to lead a charge at a major battle and earned him a nickname: “The Little Colonel.” Unfortunately, he is captured after being wounded in battle. While he is accused of treason by the Union and sentenced to hang, his mother asks Abraham Lincoln to pardon him and has her request granted. After Lincoln is assassinated, Ben finds the freed slaves of the South are using underhanded techniques to become elected officials. These former slaves don’t seem to know proper manners for governing individuals, which is why Ben tries to “scare” them into behaving by starting the ghost-themed Ku Klux Klan. Soon, order returns as the Klansmen ensure the slaves are no longer stuffing ballot boxes.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

If The Birth of a Nation was long, Griffith’s follow-up, Intolerance (1916) was even longer. Around 200 minutes long, this epic is actually four different stories told in parallel. Because of the backlash he received for the racially insensitive The Birth of a Nation, Griffith answered the only way he knew how: through film. He wanted to show intolerance in its many forms as a form of apology for glorifying the racist ideals of the Ku Klux Klan in his previous movie. Fortunately, this apology seemed to work, as he continued to direct many films after this point, including the classics Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921). Regarding his legacy, the American Film Institute originally put The Birth of a Nation on its Top 100 list in 1998, replacing it with Intolerance during the 10th Anniversary list. A fitting substitution, considering the original circumstances.

To show “Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages” (the subtitle for this film), Griffith follows four instances of intolerance across history. The oldest story is from the Babylonians, whose intolerance between different sects of followers of two different gods led to their demise. Even Jesus Christ (Howard Gaye) Himself experienced intolerance, the penultimate result of which was His eventual crucifixion. Centuries later, Catholics were intolerant of Protestants, which resulted in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Finally, in the modern times of 1914, the socially backward situation that leads to a man being sentenced to hang just for protecting his wife from the boss who put him in prison the first time. Most of these moments of intolerance end in tragedy. There is one story that does manage to pull out a happy ending, while still enforcing the huge influence intolerance has over people.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great D.W. Griffith movies

Bacon #: 3 (San Francisco / Roger Imhof -> Man Hunt / Roddy McDowall -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#369. Shameful Nations

We all have that one thing we’re ashamed of. Whether it’s a guilty pleasure, like enjoying a children’s television show, or something more sinister, like breaking the law, individuals will usually have something in their life they want everyone to forget. While many of these shameful things can be common for a large number of people, when a society forms around a group of people, there are inevitably individuals the group would rather outsiders just outright ignore. These individuals can bring shame to the entire group, either through their actions or by their strongly-held beliefs. Unfortunately, because these anomalous individuals are often seen representing the whole group, shame is brought to everyone. This can be scaled up from something as small as a workplace, to as large as a nation. This week’s two films highlight shameful nations and the individuals and groups who formed them.

ScarfaceScarface
Year: 1932
Rating: Passed
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Crime doesn’t pay, but when criminals become popular, there’s a bigger problem with society. If people don’t feel remorse for their crimes, and if they’re lauded for standing up to a system keeping them down, then the laws that hold everything together will have a difficult time supporting a civilized nation. While criminals can be part of larger organizations, the famous mobsters of the 1920s were personalities who often made headlines all by themselves. Individuals like Al Capone, Frank Costello, and Carlo Gambino made the police and law enforcement of America look foolish by breaking numerous laws and getting away with it. In shaming the legal system, these individuals in turn shame the entire nation these laws were enacted to protect. And yet, these gangsters provide entertainment via their hijinks.

Loosely based on the real-life gangster, Al Capone, Antonio “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni) is inspired by the sign outside his apartment which states, “The World is Yours.” Working underneath Italian mob boss John “Johnny” Lovo (Osgood Perkins), Tony is helping the Italians take over the south side of Chicago. Of course, just being a lackey isn’t enough for Tony. Not only does he start pursuing Johnny’s girlfriend, but he makes a move to take over the north side of Chicago from its Irish gangs. To aid in achieving his goals, his friend Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) helps Tony kill Johnny after a botched assassination on Tony’s life. However, when he learns his beloved sister is in a relationship with Guino, Tony goes insane and kills his friend, which inevitably results in the police coming in and taking Tony down.

The Birth of a NationThe Birth of a Nation
Year: 1915
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

While history is written by the victors, there can be embarrassing or shameful events in this history which are difficult to gloss over. Especially as time marches on and sentiments change, what was once condoned as appropriate behavior is condemned by future generations. These shameful events in a nation’s history cannot and should not be overlooked, lest the nation repeats them. For the United States, much changed in the wake of the Civil War, but the shameful veil of racism still seems to hold onto many of its residents more than a century later. Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan disgrace an entire nation that considers itself “enlightened.” Unfortunately, early Hollywood did not help with this, since films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) bolstered a rebirth of the KKK that still exists today.

The lives of a family from the North and a family from the South are intertwined during the Civil War. Both families send their sons to the front lines of war, but the daughters and wives end up working in the hospitals. When one of the Southern boys, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is captured and taken to a Union hospital, he is stricken with the daughter of the Northern family. Similarly, the eldest Northern son falls in love with one of the Southern daughters. When Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, everyone returns home and tries to rebuild. While the Northern family makes sure Reconstruction policies are enforced in the south, Ben Cameron observes the freed slaves abusing the government and not taking their responsibilities seriously. After starting the Ku Klux Klan, Ben manages to bring the freed slaves back in line and restore order to the southern governments.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 shame-filled societies

#235. Minimal Dialogue

The medium of cinema is inherently visual. Seeing as a film is merely a series of pictures strung together, this makes sense: the base of a movie will always be the moving pictures. Everything added on to these pictures merely enhances the experience. A musical score, sound effects, and dialogue help to enforce the visual themes represented on the screen. That being said, a film can be made that has one, two, or three of these auditory additions. A movie can also be made that has none of them, and the point will still get across. Perhaps this is why early films relied heavily on their visual elements: adding sound proved to be somewhat tricky because it required synchronizing with the pictures on the screen. This week’s two films examine some examples of cinema that doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell their story.

The Red BalloonThe Red Balloon
Year: 1956
Rating: G
Length: 34 minutes / 0.57 hours

Much like the picture books of our childhood, sometimes words are not needed for a simple story. Short films are regularly created in the same way. More often than not, animated shorts have no dialogue because their main characters are expressive enough to be able to drive the plot by their actions alone. In fact, many of the animated shorts that have won (and been nominated for) the Best Animated Short Oscar have had no dialogue at all. Even in feature-length animated films, like Up (2009), there are long segments, often in montage, that can portray a whole lifetime’s worth of plot without resorting to dialogue. But what about live-action shorts? These too can hold to a minimal amount of dialogue, especially if the plot is simple and the storytelling is well done. One of the best examples of this is the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge (1956).

Even though the few lines of dialogue in this film are in French, the plot of The Red Balloon is simple to understand because the dialogue is so minimal. Of course, when one of the main characters, the eponymous Red Balloon, cannot speak, it makes sense that there is little to talk about. Despite this verbal inadequacy, the Red Balloon is quite sentient and develops an attachment to a young boy. As they play, the boy must soon go to school, which causes the balloon to follow him there and cause him to get in trouble for disrupting the class. Once out of school, the two of them find a young girl with a Blue Balloon that exhibits the same unique properties as the red one. Jealous of the boy’s aerial friend, some bullies pop the red balloon. To comfort the young boy, all the sentient balloons in Paris come to him and lift him into the air.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Year: 1975Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

Now I know what you’re thinking: aren’t there a whole set of films that have no dialogue at all? What about silent films? While I do recognize that these films didn’t have actors speaking their lines, most of them did have some form of a dialogue between characters, usually in the form of intertitles. Of course, there are exceptions in some of the earliest films, but a recent silent film, The Artist (2011), has shown we can still make silent films today, even if they do have a few spoken lines in them as well. What’s more impressive, however, are films that are of epic length utilizing minimal dialogue. Some early silent films (notably by D.W. Griffith) are more than three hours long without a single spoken word. They did have dialogue, though, which is why Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) is such an impressive film for its minimal use of it.

With a running time quite a bit over three hours, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles examines the life of a single mother and homemaker. Since most of her time is spent alone in her house, there is little dialogue during the day. When her son comes home from school, they talk and eat dinner. Covering a timeframe of three days (almost in real-time), the audience gets an intimate and uneventful look into Jeanne’s (Delphine Seyrig) life and her many routines, including her stay-at-home profession as a prostitute. That being said, the tiny nuances in her schedule reveal that something is wrong. Small failures like dropping a freshly cleaned spoon on the floor and ruining dinner bother Jeanne in a way that eventually explodes in a session with a client, both sexually and violently. While a film of this length with as little dialogue as it has might seem tedious at first, its voyeuristic approach is enthralling up to the very end.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 quiet characters

#192. Pioneers of Sound

When we watch a film, two of our senses are stimulated: sight and hearing. While some movies might remove one of these stimulants, they do so for a short time. If the entire film has one of these elements removed entirely, it essentially ceases to be a film. Without visuals, a movie becomes a radio play. Without the sound, it becomes a pantomime. And while early films couldn’t fully utilize sound, the orchestral score did wonders for setting the mood and tone without including any speech. Still, a lot can be conveyed if the full range of sound is used in a film. There are certain aspects of sound that have been around for so long, we have mostly forgotten a time when they weren’t used. This week’s two films helped to push the limits of what sound can do to fully immerse the audience in the story provided by the visuals.

FantasiaFantasia
Year: 1940
Rating: G
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

What’s interesting about Fantasia (1940) is that, aside from some in-between sections of explanation, the entire movie is essentially “silent.” Almost two decades after the “talkies” stormed the film industry; this film came along and revealed how easy it is to tell a story with only music and some colorful visuals. While some might have seen this as a step backward in sound technology, it was, in fact, a great leap forward. To recreate the sensation of a live orchestra playing classical music, an innovation known as “Fantasound” was developed, specifically for this movie. This system was the first instance of what we now know today as “surround sound.” Without getting into too much technical jargon, some of the other benefits that came out of this audio development were multi-track recording and noise reduction, both of which are used elsewhere in a multitude of different applications today.

You may ask yourself, “Why go through all the trouble of making it seem like the audience was listening to a live orchestral performance?” We’ll put aside the fact that this technological achievement was absolutely astounding to have been created in 1940 just to point out that this orchestral performance was the crux of the whole film. To be immersed in the experience provided by Disney’s animators, the sound needed to move and flow as smoothly as the visuals did. From the dancing of the Nutcracker Suite to the flooding of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to the terror of Night on Bald Mountain, these segments (and many others) needed the full sound of Leopold Stokowski’s orchestra to completely envelop the audience in these animated worlds. The medium of sound had outgrown its humble roots and Fantasia helped to lay the groundwork for the sounds we hear today.

The Jazz SingerThe Jazz Singer
Year: 1927
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 88 minutes / 1.46 hours

Of course, in a post about pioneers of sound, I would be completely amiss if I did not include The Jazz Singer (1927). Films up until this point were limited in what they could convey. Sure, the musical score set the tone of a film, but sometimes just reading dialogue off of a caption card isn’t enough to convey the true emotion of the actors. The challenge in making the actors “talk” was due to lip-synching. Since we all experience people talking in real life, we have a good sense of what’s being said even by simply watching someone’s mouth move. If the sounds coming out of their mouth don’t match what their lips are doing, our mind rejects the speech. But, as recording techniques, both for visuals and audio, increased in accuracy, the lip-synch issue soon became a thing of the past. The first step toward that future was through The Jazz Singer’s songs.

Just like The Artist (2011) was mostly silent, except for a sound-filled nightmare, The Jazz Singer wasn’t entirely filled with speech. In fact, the majority of the audible speech in the film comes through the variety of songs sung by Jack Robin (Al Jolson). These songs are more natural to synch because they follow a musical pattern, instead of speech, which can be incredibly random. While other films had synchronized speech before The Jazz Singer, this film about a man’s dream of becoming a famous jazz singer against his father’s wishes was the first feature-length example of such a technical achievement. This film straddled the line between the silent films of the past and the vast world of cinema we know today. While some other movie might have eventually made this jump, history has marked The Jazz Singer as the pioneer for the “talkies.”

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 spectacular sounds

#189. Buster Keaton

I have mentioned a few times before in previous posts that there was a triad of comedians who excelled in silent film slapstick. First came Charlie Chaplin, then Harold Lloyd. Finally, Buster Keaton rounds out the list with some of the best-known stunts in cinematic history. In fact, with each successive actor, the stunts seemed to become more impressive. While Chaplin did a lot of his slapstick with people, Lloyd hung from buildings, and Keaton let buildings fall on top of him. The trick was that all three actors were working in the same time period. Even though they were offset by a few years, there was definitely some cross-influence between them, as well as competition for box office sales. Even with this competition, Buster Keaton made a unique name for himself. This week’s two films highlight a few of Keaton’s classics.

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

Part of Buster Keaton’s success was due to his branding. Chaplin had his “Tramp” with the short mustache, rounded hat, and cane; Lloyd’s characters wore his trademark glasses, and Keaton’s brand was the pork pie hat he wore in most of his films. This, of course, was a bit of a reference to Lloyd’s characters, who also wore a similar hat. Another theme Keaton used often was that of the underdog. Chaplin might have idealized homelessness, but Lloyd’s wealthy characters were often contrasted by burly antagonists, like in The Kid Brother (1927). Keaton’s few “Junior” films pulled from Lloyd, creating characters who were against the odds, but not because society had been hard on them. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) came four years after his first “Junior” film, but still maintained the underdog aspect.

What was almost more impressive than Keaton’s stunts were the special effects used in many of his films. In the aforementioned Steamboat Bill, Jr., the front of a house falls on top of Keaton, his only salvation being an open window in the façade. In Sherlock, Jr. (1924), he actually broke his neck when a load of water from a water tower fell on him. Fortunately, his underwater escapades in The Navigator (1924) later that year were performed safely. Obviously, some effects need to be performed in person, but scenes like walking into a movie from the stage could be done with early camera tricks. The need in Sherlock, Jr. to enter a film was the main character’s daydream that he could solve a case involving a stolen item. As he transposed himself with the detective in the movie, he was trying to recreate the circumstances that would help him get the girl.

Three AgesThree Ages
Year: 1923
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 63 minutes / 1.05 hours

Intellectual property theft was big in the early days of film, which was why Keaton’s stunts ended up being so difficult to copy: he thought the best ones up himself. Furthermore, while we are all familiar with parody films, having a vast array of popular culture to pull from, this genre is by no means new. Even in 1923, with major motion pictures only having been around for a few decades, parodies were being made to highlight a film’s cultural significance. At over three hours long, D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) gave moviegoers a look into three different historical eras to show that persecution and bigotry were rampant throughout time. This allowed Buster Keaton to easily break into cinema from the Vaudeville stage. With Three Ages (1923), Keaton began his slapstick career, seven years after Intolerance hit theaters.

At a third of the length, Three Ages stole the central plot device of using parallel storylines from Intolerance, but instead to show that man has always loved women, instead of the moral browbeating of its epic predecessor. The first of the Ages is that of the stone age, where a prehistoric man (Buster Keaton) would use whatever primitive tools necessary to convince the woman (Margaret Leahy) that he loved her. Unfortunately, as we would then see in the age of ancient Rome, it’s not so simple as that. There are rivals (Wallace Beery) who will compete for the love of the woman, often leaving the weaker and less-athletic men to think up more elaborate schemes to win the heart of a girl. Finally, in the “modern era” (in this case, the Roaring Twenties), the audience sees that things have not changed between the three ages: love has always been the way it is.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Keaton classics

Bacon #: 2 (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Patty McCormack -> Frost/Nixon / Kevin Bacon)

#188. Junior

Nothing extends a person’s legacy like their children. Most people want to be known for what they have accomplished, which means most people want to be recognizable by their name. As such, to extend their legacy, they would give their name to their progeny. However, to avoid confusion, the child usually has “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. Often, the parent will want the child to follow in their footsteps, carrying on the 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. 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. These Juniors can still 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 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 real 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 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 the case he had committed to solving had been resolved. It turns out 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