And now we have Buster Keaton’s fifth feature film, the 1925 silent comedy Seven Chances.
James Shannon (Buster Keaton) has been courting Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer) for most of a year, but can’t quite bring himself to propose. James is a stock broker, but he and his partner, Billy Meekin (T. Roy Barnes), are in trouble, potentially facing jail time unless they can get some money. Enter in James’ grandfather’s lawyer (Snitz Edwards), who tells him he is set to inherit $7 million IF he is married by 7pm on his twenty-seventh birthday. That proves to be a problem, as it IS his twenty-seventh birthday, so he immediately goes over to propose to Mary. At first, she accepts, until he fumbles over the reason, and she turns him down. Despondent, he returns to his partner, who helps him try to propose to seven women they know at the country club. He fails, and his partner decides to put an ad in the newspaper, which results in MANY women coming to the church to marry him. Meanwhile, Mary, after talking with her mother (Frankie Raymond), decides to marry him anyways. But with all this trouble, will their marriage happen in time, if at all?
The movie was based on a stage comedy of the same name produced by David Belasco. I’ve seen different statements about the success of the original play, but what hasn’t differed is that Buster Keaton had seen it and did NOT like it. However, his producer (who was also related to him by marriage at that time) had paid a lot of money for the movie rights, and, since Buster owed him money, he was stuck doing it. The film’s most famous sequence (and Buster’s main moment of inserting his own bit of creativity into the story) is the final bridal run sequence, with all the brides chasing after him through the city and the hills, culminating in a big rock slide. The rock slide itself wasn’t even originally planned! It came about after seeing the big reaction from a preview audience at Buster dislodging a rock that hit a few others, resulting in those chasing him. So he went back and milked the idea, creating rocks of varying sizes from Chicken wire and papier-mache, and improvised from there.
It’s been said that Buster considered this film to be one of his worst, and, while I haven’t seen a huge number of his movies yet, I will agree that it is definitely one of his weaker entries. It’s definitely showing its age as a story, not to mention its less-than-politically correct moments which make it tougher to watch. At least one woman he rejects appears to be Jewish (although he may just be rejecting her solely because she doesn’t appear to speak English) and another woman he rejects is black (although that could have been because of laws at that time prohibiting interracial marriages). What is tougher to get past, though, is the hired hand (played by Jules Cowles, who appears to be wearing blackface), who is a few too many racist stereotypes to get past. Honestly, if not for the bridal run sequence at the end, I would have a hard time recommending this movie. But that sequence alone saves the movie, giving Buster a chance to do many of his pratfalls (and run for ages without losing his breath). Honestly, it’s hard not to laugh at that point, as ridiculous as it gets. If only for that sequence alone, this is a movie worth seeing!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Battling Butler (1926) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 3.” Now, the movie was originally filmed with the opening sequence in Technicolor as they show the changing seasons to show how long Buster’s character was courting before switching to black and white for the rest of the movie. With Cohen’s transfer, the color barely comes through (admittedly, I’m not experienced enough with this movie to know how that section should look, and I know the technology for color wasn’t quite there yet, so I wouldn’t exactly expect it to quite look like it was filmed yesterday, color-wise), and the film elements really show their age and damage, particularly on the edges here. However, once we get past that part, the movie looks pretty good, and the main debate becomes whether you like the amber tint to the image or not. Personally, I don’t mind, and, with a second film in the set, I certainly think it’s worth it for the price! The movie itself is fifty-seven minutes in length.
My Rating: 6/10