The Saphead (1920)
Movie InfoThe Saphead was based on the tried-and-true Winchell Smith stage comedy The New Henrietta, previously filmed in 1915 as The Lamb. Buster Keaton, at the time a popular 2-reel comedy attraction, makes his feature-film debut in the role of the addlepated son of Wall Street lion William H. Crane. In an effort to make something worthwhile of his unprepossessing offspring, Crane gives Keaton $100,000 to buy a seat on the stock market. Keaton gets mixed up in a seemingly worthless stock, but proves at the end that he's got more business sense than all the other brokers combined. Surprisingly, The Saphead is almost bereft of slapstick, until Keaton forces the issue in a riotous stock-exchange climax. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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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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