The Cameraman (1928)

the cameraman poster 1928 movie buster keaton
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Keaton, great looking

Rather typical silent movie story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Cameraman

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Silent/Comedy/Romance

Release Date(s):  September 22, 1928 (Premiere)/September 10, 1928 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

cameraman buster keaton marceline day pool venice plunge

Yeah…I get it you only like successful cameramen…

Buster (Buster Keaton) is a man to makes a meager living as a photographer on the streets.  When he sees the girl of his dreams named Sally Richards (Marceline Day) and learns she works at MGM’s newsreel division, he hopes he can win her over as a cameraman.  Unfortunately for Buster, being a cameraman isn’t easy and to get the big bucks, he has to get the big shots…without getting shot himself.

Directed by Edward Sedgwick (and an uncredited Buster Keaton), The Cameraman is a silent comedy romance.  The black-and-white film released in 1928 was critically acclaimed but also was almost lost over the years.  The Criterion Collection released a restored version of the film (Criterion #1033).  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Registry in 2005.

I have to approach silent movies on occasion and usually with some gaps between them.  I’ve seen some of Keaton’s stuff and as everyone’s states, he’s a comic genius.  The Cameraman is classic Keaton with some great gags and scenes…Keaton was an inventor and a master of timing.

cameraman dressing room buster keaton edward brophy

Wait…this would be a lot simpler if we just got different rooms…problem solved

The story for The Cameraman is rather typical of silent comedy movies.  There is a guy and he likes a girl.  The guy works to impress the girl and hilarity ensues in very sequenced plot points that almost come off as mini-skits within the movies.  It is all about the type of comedy that is attempted and Keaton has a great blend of action comedy and pratfall comedy that times out well with a romance story. The final couple of sequences tie nicely together to give the story more heart than you’d expect by the end.

Between Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd, I’m not sure who I’d pick as the strongest silent actor because they are all powerhouses.  Keaton is a bit like Chaplin in that he often plays more of a sad sack character (which is different than the Tramp), but all three pour their hearts out on screen as they generally try to woo a woman.  I don’t love Marceline Day who seems a little less interested in Keaton than I feel she should be (though you know it will work out in the end)…and you got to give acting credit to the monkey (or the monkey might knife you).

cameraman monkey knife

A monkey will knife you

The movie looks fantastic and restored versions have cleaned it up as much as possible.  While the movie is obviously set in the past the quality of the film in some scenes is exemplary.  Things like Keaton sharing a tiny dressing room with a man are classic comedy and the time they spend with it wouldn’t be done today.  It is also fun to visit non-existent locations and see them in something other than pictures (like the Venice Plunge).  The movie is also cited as one of the first (if not the first) crane shot for the stairs sequence.

The Cameraman is a great example of the silent age of Hollywood.  I know that silent pictures can be a struggle for many, but if you are a fan of film, the struggle is worth it (even if just on occasion).  It is also a great reminder that films like this need to be protected and saved because watching The Cameraman is something I feel fortunate to be able to do…I hope protecting movies from the trash to the treasure like this film is something that continues.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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