Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) starring Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron
Product Description of Steamboat Bill Jr. courtesy of Amazon.com
The last of the independent features made in the prime of Buster Keaton‘s career, Steamboat Bill, Jr. is a large-scale follow-up to The General, substituting a Mississippi paddle wheel for the locomotive, and replacing the spectacle of the Civil War with a catastrophic hurricane. Keaton stars as William Canfield, Jr., a Boston collegian who returns to his deep-southern roots to reunite with his father, a crusty riverboat captain (Ernest Torrence) who is engaged in a bitter rivalry with a riverboat king coincidentally, the father of Willie s sweetheart (Marion Byron). Keaton s athleticism and gift for inventive visual humor are in top form, and the cyclone that devastates a town (and sends houses literally crashing down around him) is perhaps the most ambitious, awe-inspiring and hilarious slapstick sequence ever created.
In the silent era, it was common practice for filmmakers to create two separate negatives of their films, each comprised of differing takes and camera angles. This definitive Blu-ray edition contains both versions of STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. the Buster Keaton Estate version and the Killiam Shows Archive version each mastered from archival 35mm materials. All new Special Features include: Complete alternate version of Steamboat Bill, Jr., comprised entirely of variant takes and camera angles, Music by The Biograph Players presented in DTS-HD, Master Audio 5.1, Organ score by Lee Erwin, Piano score by William Perry, Documentary on the making of the film, Stills Gallery, Why They Call Him Buster (a montage of pratfalls), and Two vintage recordings of the folk song Steamboat Bill .
Quotes from Steamboat Bill, Jr.
- William ‘Steamboat Bill’ Canfield Sr.: [upon seeing Bill Jr. for the first time, to Tom] If you say what you’re thinking, I’ll strangle you!
- Tom Carter – First and Last Mate: [gives his gun to Steamboat Bill] There’s not a jury that would convict you.
- William ‘Steamboat Bill’ Canfield Sr.: [to the barber about his son’s mustache] Take that barnacle off his lip.
- William ‘Steamboat Bill’ Canfield Sr.: Talk to him, Sheriff.
Sheriff: [to Bill Jr] After all the bum is your father.
- William Canfield Jr. (Buster Keaton): [to his father] I know what it is, you’re ashamed of my baking.
- William Canfield Jr. (Buster Keaton): That must have happened when the dough fell in the tool chest.
Trivia for Steamboat Bill, Jr.
- The stunt where the wall falls on Buster Keaton was performed with an actual full-weight wall. Half the crew walked off the set rather than participate in a stunt that would have killed Keaton if he had been slightly off position. Keaton himself, told the previous day that his studio was being shut down, was so devastated that he didn’t care if the wall crushed him or not.
- During the hurricane sequence, there is a scene that pays homage to Buster Keaton’s childhood on the vaudeville stage. One brief moment has a table move in the wind, apparently animating the dummy and turning its head to face Keaton. Keaton is startled and runs. This is based on a real experience from when he was a kid and became fascinated with a dummy named Red Top, who belonged to ventriloquist Trovollo. The young Keaton had a “conversation” with the dummy and conspired to kidnap his new friend one night when the theater was empty. Trovollo, anticipating Keaton, slipped to his props offstage and when Keaton approached, brought Red Top to life, scaring Keaton out of the theater.
- For reasons unknown, Buster Keaton did not receive a directing credit, although all involved in the film concur that he co-directed the film.
- Marion Byron could not swim, so the scenes where her character is in the river with Buster Keaton were filmed with Buster’s real-life sister Louise Keaton serving as Marion’s stunt double. The two were both the same size – 4’11”. The water was very cold and during a day of filming Buster and Louise consumed 4-5 glasses of French brandy to keep them warm.
- The hat that Buster Keaton quickly removes from his head and hands back to the clerk with a frown is Keaton’s own trademark porkpie hat.
- This movie was used as a model for Steamboat Willie (1928), Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon with sound.