The Three Ages (1923)

Article 2662 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-3-2008
Posting Date: 11-26-2008
Directed by Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline
Featuring Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy, Wallace Beery
Country: USA

Three tales of love are told; one in caveman times, one during Roman times, and one in the present.

So far, all the Buster Keaton movies I’ve covered for this series were from long after his prime; it’s a joy to actually see him in the peak of his powers. The theme is, or course, “The course of true love never runs smooth”, and to emphasize the “never”, he borrows the structure of D.W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE and tells the same story three times (only the details change), jumping back and forth across the three time periods. Of course, the humor is in the details. The caveman sequence is what makes this one qualify, and though it’s tempting to compare it with Chaplin’s HIS PREHISTORIC PAST, it’s not really fair to that movie, as it caught Chaplin before he really honed his talents. There’s even a little comic stop-motion footage here as well, with Buster riding on the back of dinosaur. It’s consistently amusing, but my favorite sequence comes in the Roman sequence, where Buster, trapped in a lion’s den, hits upon the idea of befriending the lion in much the same way Androcles did. Unfortunately, the lion doesn’t have a thorn in his paw, so Buster settles for the next best thing, which is… well, I’m not going to give away the funniest moment in the movie. Outside of that, check out the primitive Ouija board.


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