God's Country

Chili con Carne, Keaton style

The mid-late 1940s are an interesting time in Buster Keaton’s career. The comedy short market was pretty much dead in the water, but he hadn’t yet made his television debut. In the middle ground between these two fields, he made several supporting roles in feature films. Some, like FOREVER & A DAY or SAN DIEGO, I LOVE YOU, were quite prestigious, but there were several more obscure ones that are seldom seen today. GOD’S COUNTRY is one of the most obscure of all.

Released in April 1946, this feature was a low-profile B-Western/outdoor adventure film starring Robert Lowery and Helen Gilbert. It was directed by Robert Emmett Tansey, a veteran of the genre. The main plot concerns Lowery hiding out in the backwoods of the NorthWest when he is wrongly accused of murder. Adding a little light to this heavy plot, Keaton plays “Old Tarp”, a coonskin wearing bumbler. Though many silent comedians – among them Snub Pollard, Andy Clyde and Keaton’s old buddy Al St John – had often essayed the comic Western sidekick role, this is a rare diversion into the genre for Buster.

Sadly, he doesn’t get much to do, but does get one comedy routine to himself, attempting to making a Chilli while being interrupted by a raven, squirrel and raccoon. It’s hardly a classic Keaton routine, and he’s further stymied by Tansey’s direction, but it does have some amusing moments. It’s always nice to see Buster doing his thing, and here there’s the extra bonus of seeing him do it in Cinecolor. Enjoy!