Editorial review of The Saphead (1920) starring Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron, Tom McGuire, Tom Lewis – courtesy of Amazon.com
In his first starring role (and the film that launched his career), Buster Keaton stars in The Saphead as Bertie Van Alstyne, the spoiled son of a powerful Wall Street financier. Unable to escape the wealth and comfort that are foisted upon him, he pursues individuality in a series of comic misadventures in the speakeasies of New York, at the altar of matrimony, and even on the floor of the American stock exchange.
The Saphead was instrumental in establishing Keaton as a bona fide star and greatly influenced his formulation of the Buster persona: a lonely, stone-faced soul thwarted by circumstance yet undauntedly resourceful and indefatigable in his struggle for love and survival within a chaotic world.
Quotes from The Saphead
Bertie: I’m good. I’ve tried my best to get over it – but I can’t – and I still kneel down and say my prayers every morning – before I go to bed.
Bertie: Do all these seats cost 100,000 dollars?
Bertie: All they do here is knock off hats, but I enjoy it. It occupies the mind.
Trivia for The Saphead
- Buster Keaton was recommended for the role by Douglas Fairbanks, who had created the role on Broadway and turned down the chance to play it again in the film.
- One of the few Buster Keaton films in which a hand double is used in a close-up shot to avoid showing that Keaton was missing his right index fingertip.
- A rare Buster Keaton smile is visible in the scene in which Bertie reads the newspaper account on the raid of the gambling house.