Friday, April 8, 2016

Seven Chances

A search of my blog claims that I haven't done a full-length post on Buster Keaton's classic comedy Seven Chances before.  It's airing tomorrow morning at 8;15 AM, so now is a good time to rectify that.

Buster Keaton plays The Boy, here actually named James Shannon.  As is often the case in these silent comedies, The Boy has a sweetheart in The Girl, here named Mary Jones and played by Ruth Dwyer.  He's also in business with Billy (T. Roy Barnes), but the business isn't successful and is on the verge of bankruptcy.  James and Billy are in luck, though. James' grandfather has died, and apparently James was the only grandson, since wealthy Grandpa has bequeathed him several million dollars. There's one catch, however.  James has to be married by 7:00 PM on his 27th birthday.  And today just happens to be James' 27th birthday.  So James proposes to Mary, but she misinterprets his comments about marrying for money, and turns him down.

Poor James.  To try to find a bride, he goes to the local country club, and chats up every woman he can meet there.  Needless to say, these attempts are thoroughly unsuccessful.  We know that James should end up with Mary, but James is going to have to go through a bit more before the two of them finally come to their senses and tie the know, hopefully before 7:00 PM.  Meanwhile, Billy is just as worried; he could use some of that money to save the business.  So he hits on a bright idea.  He takes out an ad in the afternoon edition of the paper seeking a bride and offering a substanial sum out of those millions if only the bride will marry James at the church at 5:00 PM.  How they'll handle the divorce isn't really mentioned.

James heads off to the church to await his fate, napping in the front pew of the church.  In one of the film's more entertaining montages, we see, as James naps, the church slowly filling up with prospective brides.  Eventually, by the time James gets up at 5:00 PM and looks around, he finds that there's an entire church full of women wearing makeshift wedding gowns and veils, willing to marry him for his money! Hundreds of such women, in fact, in all ages and sizes!  James is frankly horrified by this and would rather go back to Mary, who by this time has realized that she screwed up too and sent a messenger to try to find James and get him back to her.

So James leaves the church.  Unsurprisingly, this ticks off all those would-be brides who want to marry him for his money.  They start chasing him through the streets of the city, and even the surrounding countryside.  Who can't help but feel for James being chased by these hundreds of ravenous brides?

Seven Chances is a wonderful movie.  I think it starts off a bit slow, and the bits at the country club aren't the best, but once the action switches to the church and then the madcap chase, boy is it funny.  One thing was changed, however.  In part of the chase scene, Keaton apparently tripped a bit and kicked up some pebbles, that began rolling down the hill as Keaton was running down it.  Test audiences loved this sequence, so the filmmakers extended it and made it more outrageous, having boulders rolling down the hill threatening to flatten poor Buster if the brides don't get to him first.

Seven Chances does seem to be available on DVD, but at a pretty steep price for a movie that doesn't even run an hour.  So you may want to record it instead.

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