The Saphead (1920)
In his first outing as the rich playboy, Buster Keaton's genius already shines through in this story of the slow-on-the-uptake son of a financial genius. Based on a Winchell Smith and Victor Maples play entitled The New Henrietta, this silent film is vintage early Keaton.
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Critic Reviews for The Saphead
The Saphead is more historically important than it is aesthetically or artistically important.
Audience Reviews for The Saphead
"The Saphead" isn't a bad film, but it will frustrate Buster Keaton fans. Despite its farcical title, it barely even qualifies as a comedy.
Ineffectual Bertie (Keaton, starring in his first feature) is a stock character -- the rich, pampered dandy who is pushed into the real world and must prove his mettle. And, of course, he's shy to tell a sweetheart that he loves her. Really, this seems like more of a Harold Lloyd vehicle. The other plot thread involves Mark (Irving Cummings), a struggling employee of Bertie's tycoon father who conspires to steal the family fortune via stock-market shenanigans. Much of the story hangs on a contrived coincidence that a valuable mine and Mark's mistress happen to share the same name (Henrietta). The script's complexity (particularly its financial element) tests the limits of silent film -- "The Saphead" is adapted from a play, and would have worked better as a talkie.
Keaton had acted in numerous shorts by this time (often playing second fiddle to Fatty Arbuckle), but hadn't quite found his niche yet. He actually smiles in one scene (gasp) and has little chance for physical comedy until a climatic sequence on the stock-exchange floor. Any Keaton silent demands to be seen, but don't raise your expectations too high about this one.
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