Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Steamboat Bill, Jr.</strong> (1928)

(On TV, October 2018) One of the pleasures of going deep in cinema history is finally encountering the progenitor of a particular gag. So it is that Steamboat Bill, Jr. is where the original classic “building façade fall on a person who survives unscathed thanks to an open window” joke comes from. It happens late in the film, in the middle of a particularly frantic sequence in which a small town is destroyed by a cyclone. That final act is something spectacular, with Keaton (who also helped write and direct the film) using all the means at his disposal for a still-inventive number of comic gags and spectacular sequences set in the heart of a catastrophe. Much of Steamboat Bill, Jr. until that point is a fairly dull affair with a plot about a disappointing son, a steamboat-crossed romance and small-town competition. Then the cyclone lands and suddenly the film finds its way, producing one gag after another. The film is now freely available from its Wikipedia page in decent quality.

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