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  Cameraman, The Sent Reeling
Year: 1928
Director: Edward Sedgwick
Stars: Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin, Sidney Bracey, Harry Gribbon, Edward Brophy
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The cameramen of today are truly daredevils, putting aside thoughts of their personal safety to capture the most exciting events of the day. Well, not all cameramen of course, as some are like Buster (Buster Keaton) who make a wage by taking photographs of passersby for a small fee. But one day, he is attempting to snap a client when a parade suddenly happens by and ruins his shot: in the commotion, Buster is pressed up close to a secretary for a film company, Sally (Marceline Day) and the smell of her perfume and the feel of her soft hair on his face is enough to leave Buster infatuated. He makes up his mind to be a freelance newsreel cameraman right there and then.

This was Keaton's first film for MGM, for a deal which saw him richly rewarded financially but left him with lesser creative control, so essentially it was here that his decline as a creative force began, through no fault of his own other than wanting to be better paid for his efforts. Nevertheless, there are many who take delight in The Cameraman, and it's true it sees the star at his most endearing, but for other viewers there's a sense that his daredevil exploits and general ingenuity had been toned down for much of this.

Working from a script by, amongst others, regular collaborator Clyde Bruckman, this is by no means a disaster even if it marks a step down from his previous films, for there are still some very decent laughs to be garnered. The whole impetus of the plot is the romance, and for much of the film this is one-sided, with Sally indulging Buster's ambitions out of kindness, but she already has a boyfriend, and he's bigger than our hero. Buster has the advantage for having a bigger heart, however, and that is what helps him, predictably, win the day.

After Buster has decided to go for the newsreel career, he has to get himself a new camera, and finds one in a pawn shop. The gag here is that the equipment he does get is incredibly outdated, but as even the newest models of 1928 appear ancient to modern eyes, this is somewhat quaint. On the plus side, Keaton does get to come up with a lot of business with the bulkiness and awkwardness of carrying it around, seemingly unable to walk through a doorway with it without some kind of mishap occurring - his new boss is unhappy about replacing all those glass doors.

Buster does get to go on a date with Sally, but that too is fraught with potential disaster, some of it very funny. A simple bus ride turns into an assault course when half the population of the city turns up to clamber aboard, and Keaton is forced to hang onto the outside of the moving vehicle just to get close to Sally - one of too few of his trademark stuntman gags in the film. But there are compensations, such as the sequence where he shares a cubicle at the swimming baths with an aggressive chap who turns undressing into a wrestling match, and later on when it is revealed Buster has on the wrong costume, he naturally loses it while "diving". Needless to say, Buster wins through with footage of a Tong war in Chinatown and the help of a cheeky monkey, saving Sally from drowning too. There's a lot to like about even Keaton's lesser silents, and The Cameraman is full of charm, even if the great star would rarely reach these heights again.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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