Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Introduction and Book Signing
Dana Stevens—Slate’s film critic since 2006 and a cohost of the magazine’s weekly cultural podcast, Slate Culture Gabfest—is the author of Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century. We celebrate the publication of Camera Man with a book signing following the screening.
Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron, Tom Lewis,
The authentic Mississippi River setting (filmed along the Sacramento River delta) is but one of Steamboat Bill, Jr.’s many pleasures. The film seems to have a direct line to Keaton’s youth and soul in the tale of a sensitive lad trying to figure out the mettle of manhood in his overbearing dad. Buster with an umbrella against the fearsome storm that rips the houses off people’s lives; Buster drawn, as if in a dream, to an abandoned vaudeville theater: “Keaton’s most entertaining balance of the instinctual and the cerebral” (Sarris & Allen, The Village Voice). The climax is one of Keaton’s most dangerous and carefully planned stunts: Noting that the hospital in which he lies, and indeed the whole town, has flown away, he runs to stand in the street. A wall comes crashing down on him, but he passes, untouched, through an open window. The scene was done unfaked, with a real wall.
Eddie Cline, Buster Keaton, United States, 1921
In this strange and surreal comedy, Buster, his wife, and his kids are all adrift at sea on a boat called Damfino that refuses to stay afloat.