Politeness often paves the way for the introduction and growth of social and even business-focused relationships. The tourism industry is founded on this idea. As more personal relationships flourish, uncomfortable undercurrents and animosity may begin to slowly emerge. However, there may be situations whereby a facade of civility and amicability masquerades perceived genuineness from the beginning. Friction is quite apparent from day one, and should be tackled to recognize any impending conflict. The principle of irony in kindness is explored in Buster Keaton’s 1923 classic, “Our Hospitality”.
The story commences in 1810 with a longstanding, foolish feud between the Canfield and McKay families. One night, one member in each family kills each other out of pride and spite. One of these individuals is John McKay (Edward Coxen), the father of young Willie McKay (Buster Keaton Jr.). For protection of the boy, Willie and his mother (Jean Dumas) move to New York City. Flash forward twenty years later whereby an adult Willie (Buster Keaton Sr.) receives a letter that he is set to inherit his father’s property. He must return to his former home to obtain this real estate, but is finally educated about the feud by his Aunt Mary (Kitty Bradbury). He is warned to never interact with the Canfield family. During the extremely complicated train travel equipped with absent and route-changing train tracks, Willie meets a charming young lady (Natalie Talmadge, Keaton’s wife). Unbeknownst to him, her surname is … Canfield! Obliviousness, determination, deception, and farce ensue in his pursuit to court her while avoiding death by the hands of her male family members.
This slapstick comedy has all of the goods – incredible gags, death-defying stunts, and a great deal of heart. In my opinion, the most memorable gags in this film are crafted with waterfalls as the central point. This setting can be quite dangerous, and Keaton did not use stunt doubles in filming these scenes. I viewed this film with extreme awe knowing that his creativity and bravery perpetuated great innovation amongst all in the film world. Furthermore, I feel that the involvement of Keaton’s wife, son, and father greatly enhances the sentimentality and raw emotionality within the film. While the Canfields were less than hospitable towards Willie McKay, Keaton’s hospitality definitely shone through in the fruition of this wondrous masterpiece.
I do not own the above image.
Here is one such amazing clip related to the waterfall stunts in this film. It definitely took a lot of co-ordination, trust, and fearlessness to execute this scene.
This post is part of the Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon hosted by Silent-ology. There are lots of great posts paying tribute to this pioneer of comedy!