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!

Charades with Buster

Here’s a nice bit of Buster Keaton I’ve not seen before: his appearance on TV series BURKE’S LAW, from 1964. Buster is being interviewed as a suspect in a murder case, but unfortunately he has laryngitis. This provides up the perfect excuse for a nice bit of pantomime, as he acts out his witness statement. It’s a funny little scene that raises to a nice level of absurdity as the two hard-boiled detectives gradually get more and more excited by their attempts to guess the meaning, turning the whole thing into a party game.


That’s That!

One of the Laurel & Hardy items I’ve wanted to see for the longest is ‘THAT’S THAT!’. It was a gag reel compiled by Hal Roach Studios editor Bert Jordan, on the occasion of Stan Laurel’s 47th Birthday. It’s been shown at a couple of L & H conventions, and a really ropey off-screen dupe of a short section once appeared on YouTube, but now it’s been fully restored by UCLA and put online. And it’s a strange eight minutes, to be sure…

Jordan had access to all sorts of outtakes, bloopers and sound effects in the Roach vaults, and used them to cobble together a bizarre little stream-of-consciousness short, replete with non-sequitirs, random effects, animations and amusing juxtapositions ending up like something Spike Milligan would have been proud of!

It begins with full Roach titles; THAT’S THAT was the original working title for THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE. Alternate takes from MURDER CASE form a large part of the footage, along with its Spanish language counterpart NOCHE DE DUENDES. There are also chunks of OUR WIFE, LAUGHING GRAVY, DIRTY WORK and the then-current WAY OUT WEST. Outtakes from the latter include a shot of Tiny Sandford in costume (replaced by Stanley Fields in the finished version) and Stan’s double Ham Kinsey reciting the declaration of independence!

L & H co-star Charley Chase makes an appearance, messing up a scene from MANHATTAN MONKEY BUSINESS and cursing; Edgar Kennedy provides a wrap-up comment for the short. There are also glimpses of Mae Busch, Jimmy Finlayson, Charlie Hall, Babe London and Gordon Douglas.

Most interesting of all is a very brief deleted gag from SONS IN THE DESERT, from the attic scene. Stan is attempting to pull something on a string up to the attic, but manages to get it caught on a radio set, which falls over and explodes.

Moments like this make you wonder what else was once lurking in the vaults and now vanished. A fascinating, if bizarre, way to spend eight and a half minutes… Many thanks to UCLA and their funding donors for making this available! We really are spoiled these days… If you want to give a little something back you can support UCLA’s Laurel & Hardy Preservation fund here: https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/support/laurel-and-hardy

Here’s ‘THAT’S THAT’ online:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AapRK62 … e=youtu.be