Classic of the Week: Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

Steamboat Bill Jr. is a 1928 silent comedy film starring Buster Keaton and directed by Charles Reisner. The film is known for what may be Keaton’s most famous film stunt: The exterior of a whole house falls around him while he stands in the ideal spot to pass through the open attic window instead of being crushed. The film inspired Disney’s Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse’s 128 film debut.

The film follows William “Steamoat Bill” Canfield, who is the owner and captain of a paddle steamer that has seen better days. He impatiently awaits for his college student son to arrive, whom he hasn’t since the boy was a baby. Expecting a big man like himself to help him compete with businessman John James King and his brand new, expensive riverboat, William is sorely disappointed with his awkward son, who arrives with a beret, a pencil mustache and a ukulele. He gets enraged when he finds out that his son and King’s daughter Kitty, also visiting her father, are in love. Both business opponents are determined to break up the relationship.

When Canfield’s ship is said to be unsafe, he accuses King of plotting it. He beats him up and is put in jail. His son tries to set him free by bringing him a loaf of bread with tools hidden inside, but his plan is dicovered. The sheriff hits the son on the head, sending him to the hospital. A cyclone then hits, tearing down buildings and jeopardizing this ships. As Canfield Jr. is making his way through town, a build front falls around him.

Although this film was a box office failure and received mixed reviews upon its release, it has since gone down as one of Keaton’s best movies and one of the greatest films of all time. It has many laugh out moments, lots of slapstick and special effects that were ahead of its time and still impress to this day. It has romance, drama and a few heartwarming and instense scenes.

This iconic film has inspired so many movies and televisions shows, especially the house falling scene. This is a movie with a simple plot and that was so brilliantly executed in every way, I don’t understand how this did so poorly in theaters and had such mediocre reviews. It is a wonderful, fun-filled and very entertaining film from begining to end. There is not one dull moment and it is Keaton at his best.

There is no nudity, no profanity (of course) and no drinking or smoking. There is slapstick violence. The father’s rejection of his vain son and the cyclone scene may be disturbing to some children, but other than that this is a pretty family friendly film. This is one movie that can be watched over and over again. This film has definitely stood the test of time. Truly a masterpiece that will continue to entertain and inspire. 7+ 5/5

Classic of the Week: Girl Shy (1924)

Girl Shy is a 1924 romantic comedy film starring Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston and directed by Fred C. Newmeyer. In 2020 the film entered the public domain. The film is a bout a shy young man who is unable to talk to women, who sets out to publish a book, finding true love in the process.

This film is filled with laugh out loud moments, romance and slapstick humor. Harold writes a book called “The Secret of Making Love,” though he is terribly shy and awkward with ladies. He thinks that if the book gets published, it will bring him good money and a wife, but to his misfortune, he still stutters. He does end up finding love, but the road there isn’t an easy one.

Harold Meadows (Lloyd) is a tailor’s apprentice for his Uncle in Little Bend, California. He is so shy around females and can hardly talk around them. To stop his stuttering, his uncle blows a whistle. Despite this Harold writes a book about the secrets to making love, describing how to pursue different types of women, like “the flapper” and “the vampire.” He takes a train to a publisher in Los Angeles. He meets Mary Buckingham (Ralston), a rich young lady when she happens to board the same train after car breaks down and helps rescue and hide her Pomeranian that isn’t allowed on the train. Throughout the film, he both wins and loses her love, while trying to become a writer.

Though this is a romantic comedy film, it isn’t like many rom-coms that either super cutesy or super cheesy, it is the perfect balance of romance, comedy, slapstick humor and heartwarming moments. it makes you laugh out loud and smile. Harold is one of the original comedy guys and he is fantastic in this movie. This is a film that inspires you to not give on your dreams and that there is love for everyone. This is one that can always put a smile on your face and a glow in your heart.

There is a scene where the lead the character, (comically) spanks a woman, there is also violence (slapstick), sexual innuendos, kissing, car chases and bootleggers and in one particular scene, wine is consumed. So this isn’t a movie for young viewers, but older ones may enjoy it more. This is an adventurous, romantic and humorous story rolled into one wonderful film. One of Harold Lloyd’s best films, definitely in the top five. Not just one of the greatest silent films, but films of all time. One that can be over and over without getting old.

If you’re looking for a classic to watch, a movie for date night or just something to cheer you up, this is undoubtedly a perfect choice, or just for any time. Very entertaining, yet has it’s sweet scenes This may be a lesser known silent film, but it is one that should be on everyone’s “must watch” list. Nothing too silly or cheesy, it is lovely, funny and clever from start to finish. 10+ 4.5/5