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Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Virginia Fox. Dir: Buster Keaton (and Edward Cline)

This is what is commonly known as a two-reeler, which means it is a shorter film, typically lasting in the neighborhood of 20 minutes, or thereabouts. This format is what Keaton started out doing when he began appearing in Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s films. They were two-reelers as well. The thinking here was that nobody would pay perfectly good money to sit in a movie theatre for over an hour and watch a comedy. The real money was supposedly in drama. Whatever. Sure, there were a few feature-length comedies here and there, Mack Sennett seemed to be doing well with them, but the financiers still didn’t care.

So after Keaton had been working with Arbuckle a couple of years, Arbuckle got signed with Paramount to make feature-length films because he had proven his bankability finally. Keaton then started making two-reelers on his own, writing, producing, directing, acting, etc. The Paleface came from this time period. It should be noted that he did star in a feature-length film in 1920, but it was someone else’s studio and he didn’t write or direct or produce it, he only acted in it. It wasn’t his project. He was so uncertain about how his audience would react to a feature by him that the first one he made was shot in such a manner that if the preview audiences didn’t like it, it could be split into three separate films.

Anyway, let me get back to The Paleface, which is not to be confused with the Bob Hope, Jane Russell The Paleface. Each is very good, just don’t confuse them. Some very bad men cheat some Indians (Native Americans, you know) out of their land and Buster Keaton wanders onto it at the wrong time. It gets rough for him, them and the cheaters. Then the world’s longest kiss happens. The end.

There is humor, justice, romance, swastikas. Wait, what? Okay, not exactly. Buster puts on a blanket which was made by the Indians. This movie was made in 1922, before there were nazis, so the swastika doesn’t mean anything bad (the symbol was originally a kind of cross), and it’s actually backward on the blanket. So don’t freak out when you see it.

Buster ends up in his underwear a few times in this one. If you don’t know how often this happened in his films, then perhaps it is of note, but if you have, you may wonder why I’m bothering to mention it. Well, I’ll tell you. I like Buster in his underwear, that’s why.

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