johnlink ranks GO WEST (1925)

If you have visited this site with any frequency, you’ll know me to be a Buster Keaton fan. While not a silent movie scholar, I’ve seen enough to know that I’ll give anything with Keaton a run. Turner Classic Movies is usually good for a new title every so often, and GO WEST is another example.


I watched GO WEST (1925) on 12.4.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

While not a scientific study to be sure, this has less title cards than many of the Keaton or Chaplin films. More than most, GO WEST relies on the action to provide the comedy (especially once this film moves out west).

A wonderful opening sequence shows Keaton’s character (named “Friendless”) pulling his city-life possessions to a general store owner. He drags everything on a bed, sells it all for less than two bucks. He goes to pull some of his personal objects only to find out they are no longer his. He gives some of the money back to the clerk. He buys some supplies, some food. He ends up walking out with less than he walked in, only with no money to show for it.

Keaton jumps on a train and ends up in the old west. He has trouble becoming acclimated to the life, as might be suspected. He can’t do basic things, though it turns out he has a way with cows. One in particular. This leads to a Billy Crystal/Norman relationship from which the 1991 film CITY SLICKERS was more than happy to adopt.

There are plenty of nice bits and moments in this, as can be expected. A card game provides quick witted hilarity when Keaton uses his finger to prevent a trigger being pulled. He then whips out his much smaller gun (attached to a string) and wins the moment. There are nice moments of symmetry and of set-up/knock-down gags. Keaton is late to two meals and doesn’t eat before being the first one in and finishing early. It isn’t hilarious, or funny even, but it somehow works.

Directed by Keaton, this also has some amazing visuals. A camera rides on the back of a cow at one point, showing us the steer’s perspective. A scene atop a train has a nice camera set-up which looks along the top of the car as Keaton stands prominently deep in the space. Another moment has Keaton riding in the train with the cows, looking like he’s just one of the cattle. More than some other Keaton works, GO WEST has a large number of great visual moments.

GO WEST is, to be sure, Classic Keaton. His stone faced city boy manages to succeed in light of obvious lack of ability. When there is a gun fight we immediately know that this is not Keaton’s style. So much of this movie revolves around his fish-out-of-water status, yet it never gets old.

A final stampede brings the proceedings to a satisfactorily grand halt. The movie grows in that way, starting with Keaton exiting a small house with a few possessions, and ending with him being the pied piper of a stampede.  This is a Keaton flick to hunt down, for sure.





~ by johnlink00 on December 6, 2013.

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