Naturally, Shannon has trouble getting a woman to accept his marriage proposals. Even today very few women would react positively if a strange man walked up to them and proposed. Now imagine the reaction back in the 1920s when all the societal proprieties would have been getting violated. And it’s not that he gets rejected, it’s the way he gets rejected. My favorite gag during this sequence is when he throws a proposal note up to a woman on a balcony and all we see are a rain of torn pieces of paper coming down on his head. At this point he’s hit on about every woman in the place. He turns to look at the hat check girl, who’s been watching him the entire time. She just gives him a little shake of her head as if to say, “Don’t even think about it.”
Even funnier than the rejections, though, are the apparent acceptances which turn out badly. At different points Shannon finds out that his prospective brides are underage, Jewish, Black, or a man. This last one is a joke that I didn’t get, but that audiences at the time would have. Shannon runs to the backstage area of a show, not noticing the performer’s name on the sign. It was Julian Eltinge, who was a famous female impersonator of that era. Of course, the black woman and Jewish woman not being candidates is a product of the times the film was made in. Many parts of the
still had laws against “intermarriage” at that time. U.S.
During all of this there has been what would seem to be a perfect candidate.
Shannon has been sweet on the girl next door (Ruth Dwyer), but has never gotten up the courage to tell her how he feels. If he comes to her now, desperate like this, it just wouldn’t be right.
These are all funny, but the movie really kicks it up a notch with a huge chase sequence.
Shannon’s friend places an ad in the afternoon paper telling any single women about his situation and that if any of them are willing to marry him they should show up at the local church at a specific time before 7:00 PM. Shannon isn’t thrilled when he finds out, but he goes to the church anyway. It’s empty. In his despair he lies down on the first pew at the front of the church. Now the insanity starts.
Shannon sleeps we see a woman enter the church, complete in wedding dress, and sit down. Soon another follows. And another. Then a few more. Then the doors open and hundreds of women file into the church – all in wedding dresses. We see outside and there are hundreds more that can’t get in. Every single one of them is there to marry a very rich man. None of them see Shannon because he is hidden by the pew. As they sit there, waiting for him to arrive, their excitement builds to the breaking point. All of a sudden, Shannon sits up. It’s as if a small animal suddenly appeared in front of a pride of lionesses. When he turns around and sees all these women, and especially the expressions on their faces, he realizes he should be elsewhere as quickly as possible. He runs. They chase.
What follows is a crazy set of gags as he first needs to get out of the church, and then runs around the town with literally thousands of women, all in wedding dresses, chasing down the streets after him. At one point he runs over a football field where two teams of burly men are playing. The women follow and absolutely annihilate these big, strong men in their quest to catch
Shannon ends up running down a steep, rocky slope. When he was watching an early version of this film, Keaton noticed that the biggest laugh from the audience came when he accidentally dislodged a large rock during this stunt and had to dodge it. Knowing a good thing when he sees it, he immediately went back and shot a whole new sequence on this slope. The finished product shows him dislodging a couple of rocks, which hit and dislodge some more. He keeps moving others as he runs, too. The number of rocks builds and builds and he is eventually running down a slope trying to dodge a virtual avalanche of rocks and boulders. What was once a few seconds long sequence to take him to the next gag becomes a several minutes long, very funny sequence in its own right.
Shannon get married by 7:00PM and inherit the money? I’m not telling.
By the way, when you watch this movie keep an eye out for a pre-fame Jean Arthur (You Can’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to
) in a small role as a telephone operator. Washington
I have not seen it, but 1999’s The Bachelor sounds like it might be either a remake or simply a movie with a similar idea to this one. I can’t compare the two, but I would highly doubt that the 1999 film’s star – Chris O’Donnell – could be as funny as Buster Keaton.
I really can’t think of a reason that someone wouldn’t want to see this movie, other than maybe they just don’t like silent films in general. For everyone else, I highly recommend this film.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
DVD Blu-ray Instant Video
DVD Blu-ray Instant Video