Feature Comedy | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Steamboat Bill jr, part one.
Director: Chas. F. Reisner.
Intertitle: 'Muddy Waters'. Extreme long shot of two people in a small boat in water surrounded by trees (Everglades?). Slow pan left through trees, wooden footbridge, two people standing on bridge, wide river with large steam boats on it. One is moored. Intertitle: 'The New Steamer 'King'.' Another steam boat moving down river. Its owner is J.J. King (played by Tom McGuire). King on deck of moving steamer (wears top hat, tie, wing collared shirt) flanked by naval officers in white uniforms. The moored steamer is 'Stonewall Jackson'. Rear view of people waving at passengers of Stonewall Jackson (SJ). William Carfield, Steamboat Bill, the owner of 'SJ' (played by Ernest Torrence) wears a crumpled peaked hat, his face is creased and he smokes a pipe and spits. Bill's First Mate (played by Tom Lewis) talking wears black uniform, is over weight and bald). A jetty where crowds are waving at the arrival of 'King'. Billy, on board SJ comes out of bridge and joins First Mate. They observe the arrival of 'King'. King salutes them from the deck of his steamboat, Billy angrily dismisses this feigned friendliness. King laughs. 'King' pulls up to jetty. Those surround King applaud, he doffs his hat. Crowds on the packed jetty waving. King gives speech. Poster: 'River Junction Bank J.J. King President'. Sign: 'Hotel King', the speech continues. He indicates another part of his empire. The crowd on the jetty continue to wave and applaud. Intertitle: 'This floating palace should put an end to that 'thing' steamboat Bill is running'. King points towards S.J., Bill and First Mate look dejected. First Mate turns to Bill and says '...you'll have to look for a new river'. Bill barks, 'I'll run on this river if I'm the only passenger on the boat'. First mate claps him on the back. Man at bottom of S.J.'s gang plank hands telegram to Bill. He opens it. Close up of telegram which is from William Carfield Jr. who writes that he has finished school and that he will be visiting him, wearing a white carnation. Bill stabs at telegram and says he hasn't seen Willie 'since he was a baby'. He laughs. First Mate indicates size by raising his hand and says 'must be a big lad by now'. Bill replies, 'I'll bet he's bigger than me'. He stands and buttons up coat. They look curiously at each other, Bill pulls out pocket watch, realises that Willie is arriving on the next train, he looks up and points. A bus is just leaving on the road above the jetty (open single decker) with 'Stonewall Jackson' written all over it but it stops when the driver hears Bill's shout. King having white carnation fixed into his lapel by pretty girl. He tips her generously. Bill and First Mate leave on the bus for the railway station which is passed, going in the opposite direction, by Kitty (played by Marion Byron), King's daughter. She stops opposite King. She waves at her father, she is young, attractive, slim and energetic. King holds out his arms, she runs to him, they embrace and kiss. King turns her around and looks at her fashionable dress and hat. Long shot of train station. Bus and horse and cart in foreground, steam train pulls into station in background. 'The King Steamboat Bus' is parked in the station's car park and is contrasted with the old SJ bus when pulls alongside it. Bill and First Mate get out and run off. Passengers get off train. Bill and First Mate survey the alighting passengers. They see man in boater bent over a suitcase, he is wearing a white carnation in his jacket lapel as well as a tie. Bill welcomes him with his arms extended, the man stands up, he is black. Bill looks disappointed. First Mate laughs, black man looks confused. Three men wearing white carnations looking at map while standing on platform. Bill asks them if any of them are 'looking for a father'. They all shake their heads. Another man in black suit and beard with carnation. Guard signals for train to leave, it starts reversing: Bill wipes his mouth with handkerchief and points at his lapel. Long shot as engine exits frame revealing a sign 'River Junction' and a man standing beneath it looking away from the platform. He is carrying a large suitcase, wears baggy trousers, a stripped jacket and a beret. He turns revealing a bow tie, moustache and the fact that he is carrying a musical instrument under his arm (parodies the college student). This is Willie (played by Buster Keaton). He walks over railway lines and stumbles on to the platform. He approaches two men, stands in front of them and points lapel at them. This he repeats to some other men. One takes the carnation but he recovers it. He approaches First Mate who looks at him strangely, Bill sees him but assumes that such a slight and odd looking man could not be his son. However, Willie does not see Bill as he leaves the platform by running down slope into goods yard. There he passes a man leaning on stacked boxes while smoking a cigar who looks after him as he passes. Willie walks in front of Bill, stops, drops bag, walks forward. Bill and First Mate shocked. Bill looks at tag on bag which says 'Wm. Carfield Jr. Boston.' This is confirmation that the effeminate male is his son. Bill looks at him amazed, his mouth open, his eyes wide. Willie accidentally Beret sits on pram, baby starts to cry, he jumps off pram and begins to rock pram to placate baby. Bill is clearly disappointed. First Mate laughs. Willie dances, sings and plays ukulele for baby, he thinks he is alone. Bill is not impressed by his son's display. Willie tip toes away from baby. Bill and First Mate follow him out of frame, Willie re-enters frame and picks up bag. Willie now walking towards camera unaware that he is being followed by Bill. Willie turns and runs back to speak to Bill. They shake hands when they realise that they are related. Bill takes his luggage, passes bag to First Mate and, embarrassed by the ukulele, puts it in his back pocket. Back at the railway station car park The King Steamer bus is parked in front of SJ bus. Willie goes to board King bus but he is roughly pulled away by Bill. Conductor of the King bus runs after Willie, grabs him and attempts to push him through the door at the rear of the King bus. Bill grabs Willie and pushes conductor through open door and bus immediately drives off. The three get onto SJ bus and it drives off. Interior of shop, man working at large desk. Bus seen through window stopping outside. Father, son and First Mate disembark. They walk up to window. Bill is holding Willie's hand. They walk into office, through it and into a barbers where Bill tells the barber to remove Willie's moustache. Willie is pulled into chair as Bill leaves. Barber pulls white cover over Willie's face, he protests. Barber puts it round his neck. Barber dabs shaving cream on moustache, looks at cut throat razor. In two flicks of the wrist he removes moustache. He rubs Willie's face with towel. Willie stretches face. Barber selects tweezers from his collection of instruments (laid out in a similar way to that of a surgeon). Pulls whisker from Willie's upper lip which is clearly painful. Barber spins Willie round and begins to cut his hair. In front of him another barber is cutting Kitty's hair. She is spun round so they face each other. She recognizes Willie from college. They jump out of their respective chairs and hold hands. They explain that both of their father's live in the town. She runs out with Willie who runs into the door frame. Outside Kitty removes her white cover and the barber comes out and takes Willie's. Bill stands by door and witnesses it all. Willie puts beret on, Bill takes it off and drags Willie into hat shop. He speaks to shop assistant and throws beret onto table. Willie puts beret in pocket and puts on white and black chequered cap. Bill throws this off and replaces it with a brimmed hat which he subsequently removes. Willie puts a chequered cap again (its brim stands up oddly and amusingly). Bill chucks it to one side, puts another hat on him which is also disposed of. Willie goes back to cap, Bill throws it violently. He tries on a sequence of hats, the shop assistant puts them on, Bill removes them. One hat is so big that it drops down to his eyes and when it is removed it hurts his forehead. Eventually they settle on a panama, Willie turns up front of brim, Bill knocks it down. They walk out of shop. As they cross road a gust of wind blows hat off and into river. Willie puts his beret back on. Kitty appears with her father. King looks Willie up and down, smirks and then laughs. Bill takes Willie to another shop where the assistant is ordered to fix him up with work clothes. Bill walks out of shop, the ukulele falls out of his back pocket, King, still watching, roars with laughter, Bill stamps on guitar. Willie sees this happen and looks upset, but the aggressive tailor pushes his arms in the air to measure his chest, King is still laughing. Kitty frowns at her father and runs to join Willie in the tailors. Perturbed by this development King begins to frown. Shop assistant offers Willie dungarees. Kitty pushes them away. She takes Willie's hand and rubs it while he smells her hair. King looks on annoyed. Intertitle: 'Working clothes for the boat with her help.' Willie walks towards camera along jetty dressed as a naval officer. Bill looks down from bridge and is shocked by what his son is wearing. First Mate gives Bill a pistol saying 'No jury would convict you', joking that he could kill with justification. Once on the steamboat Willie knocks life belt overboard, it sinks! He bounces on the deck to check its strength. He climbs ladder, hits head, puts hand on pipe and burns it, walks into cables, almost slips overboard. He sees the Kings talking on their steamboat, he tidies himself up and begins to walk like an officer, back and forth. Close up of Kitty trying to get Willie's attention. As he walks past coiled rope a sailor picks it up, a loop is wound Willie's ankle, as it is pulled away Willie lands on his head (like a break dancer), spins and sits on the deck. Kitty looks concerned. Shot from front of paddle boat, Bill stands on bridge of ship at top of frame, beneath him is a sign: 'Stonewall Jackson' and below this is Willie. Willie continues to walk back and forth and then into a cabin. On the other boat the Kings walk away. Kitty climbs down ladder. The First Mate is looking round on SJ. Miss King running to rear of 'King'. She passes paddle at the aft and meets Willie. She admires his uniform. From a higher deck King shouts calling her back. As she complies she pulls Willie with her. His father, standing on the bridge, calls him back. King orders one of his white suited men to remove Willie from the ship, he pushes him off. Bill runs down, Kitty steps off her father's boat, King runs down. The couple talk while their fathers converge. Willie persuades Kitty to return to her boat. King appears and pushes her to one side. King posts one of his men on guard threatening to wring Willie's neck if he is caught on board again. Bill is now at his son's side and tells him to board King's boat. Willie dutifully steps over small gap that separate the two boats. The guard pushes him back. Bill pushes him back and the process begins to speed up until Willie almost falls between the boats pulling the guard down onto S.J. They begin to fight. The guard holds up a fist to Willie, Bill barks at him. Willie wants to walk away from the fight but Bill scrunches Willie's hand into a fist and them punches the guard who is knocked over board. Bill holds up Willie's fist saying 'That's what that's for'. Willie holds his fist which is now painful. King looks over the edge of his boat, Kitty laughs. Willie is still nursing his hand when Bill says that his son will deal with anyone found on his boat. Bill then drags Willie away, Willie gets caught on cable. King drags his daughter away. The two look longingly at each other. Bill tells one of his men to show Willie how the ship works. The engineer pushes Willie, Bill punches him knocking him down saying leave him alone. Bill walks off, Willie follows, engineer struggles to his feet. In engine room Bill show some paternal affection by wiping some dust off Willie's uniform. While Bill is explaining how the boat works Willie pulls lever. The paddle begins to turn, bow of the SJ moves forward and strikes the stern of 'King'. Guard at rear of 'King' falls overboard, passengers in deck chairs are sent sprawling. Bill pulls lever back. King talks to officer while pointing as passengers gather themselves together, King storms off. In engine room Willie falls backwards on to lever paddles turn, passengers knocked over again. King falls overboard in water. Bill explains that he trying to teach Willie to run ship not to wreck it. Willie sulks. Bill looks overboard and sees King swimming, he is overjoyed and laughs for the first time. He shakes Willie's hand and pats him on the back, still laughing. Willie is puzzled. Bill bites from chunk of tobacco which he offers Willie. Willie takes a small bite, he chews, realises it tastes awful. Bill slaps him on the back, Willie swallows tobacco and faints. Willie's cabin. Willie in bed asleep, Bill enters. He looks at floor at end of bed where fragments of coconut shells have been scattered. Bill steps over them. Willie sits up in bed, he was awake all the while. He reads letter from Kitty which says he should go to the saloon tonight if he really cares for her. He makes up his mid, puts cap on, steps out of bed, takes off night shirt revealing uniform. Next door Bill is still getting ready for bed. He walks to connecting door, Willie jumps back into bed, Bill appears and looks in wardrobe from which he takes night shirt. He notices that Willie is fully dressed. Bill hits him, Willie pretends to wake from deep sleep and then turns over. Bill slaps his backside. He is told to stand up and get undressed. Bashful, Willie removes jacket and then places sheet over him as he takes off his braces. But the sheet does not preserve his modesty enough so he goes into a cupboard. Bill looks around the room. On King's boat King is reprimanding Kitty. She stands in front of a desk facing the camera with her eyes lowered while King speaks to her from the other side of the desk. He says, 'I'll pick the young man for you...' he is now shouting at her. An officer enters the frame and speaks to King. Meanwhile, Bill is still waiting for Willie. The cupboard door opens and Willie is now dressed in his white night shirt, he gives Bill his boots, Bill indicates that he will be staying in the cabin tonight and says 'I'll pick the young lady for you...' Bill speaks close to Willie's face, who shakes his head. Bill locks the cabin door and removes the key. Willie futilely holds his hand out to receive the key. Willie gets into bed, plumps up his pillow, places his head on it but sticks his backside in the air. Bill tells him to drop it, he complies. Willie turns over and pulls the sheet over him. Bill, still carrying Willie's clothes, looks angry. Bill leaves the cabin, Willie leaps out of bed, removes night shirt under which he is wearing a shirt and rolled up trousers. He pushes the trousers down, stands on the coconut shells which he extracts from his bare foot and then sits down. Next door Bill shoves Willie's clothes into a cupboard. Meanwhile Willie is doing his boots up. He stands and puts pillows under the sheet to look as if he is still in bed. He puts on hat and reefer jacket, tries the door, it is locked, walks round to window which he climbs out of. He tries to sit on edge ship's deck but slips, he dangles and struggles not to fall, he slides down pole and lands on the next level on his back. Meanwhile Kitty is waiting in the salon leaning on the arm on an arm chair next to a column, she is getting impatient and pats the chair. Willie falls to the next level of the boat, he stands holding his head, ducks under a rope, reaches the aft of S.J. but the gap between the two steamboats has increased. He hesitates. Bill, now in his night gown, scratches his ribs, holds up a pair of trousers and goes into Willie's cabin stepping on the shells (close up of feet). He hops around cabin rubbing his feet. He sits does, holds feet and talks to Willie about the shells on the floor. He rubs his sore foot against his leg as he stands. Willie has found a plank and is pushing it towards King's boat to bridge the gap. It almost falls. He gets it across, checks its strength, begins to walk across when he hears something. The First Mate comes out on to deck with a cat which he throws and kicks. Willie, in the meantime, has laid down on the plank and pretends to be asleep. The First Mate looks around, Willie looks up. One of King's officers directing a team of men pulling ropes. Willie is still on the plank between the two steamboats. King's steamboat moves away, the plank is left with nothing supporting it on one side but it remains horizontal. The First Mate walks away. Willie stands, there is now a gap between the end of the plank and aft of King's boat. Checking that no one is around on his boat he shuffles backwards, at the last minute he turns, he realizes what has happened, tries to step further than he had originally thought he needed to but it is not enough. He grabs 'King's aft as he falls but it is not enough and falls into the river. He swims. Bill is still in Willie's cabin looking at his trousers, he talks to Willie, taps him, realises that Willie is not that soft and grows suspicious. He prods again, pulls back the sheets and realises the deception. In anger he throws the trousers down, tries to get out of door but it is locked, looks for Willie behind doors. Looks out of window, Bill shot from exterior framed by window frame. Willie climbing the ladder on to King's white boat. Bill closes the window clenches fist and with determinations says 'Back to Boston you go'. He walks back to his own cabin, stands on the coconut shells again, hops to a seat. Willie reaches deck. Interior of King's offices on his paddle steamer. Willie's head appears at window, King walks into room and then out through another door to stand on deck. Willie, on all fours, scuttles into the office unnoticed as King shuts door. However, an officer comes into office, he sees Willie, kicks him on the backside, Willie jerks forward, knocks the door open, which knocks King overboard. Willie stands, officer goes to punch him, he steps out of the way and the momentum of the punch carries the officer overboard. Another officer appears, Willie capitulates and as King begins to ascend the ladder Willie jumps back into the river. Both King and officer climb ladder. Black man in cap sitting on box playing guitar on quayside. Willie swims into shot and pulls himself onto shore opposite the guitarist. He stops playing, throws guitar to one side and falls backwards off box and runs off. Willie pulls himself up.
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