Keaton, Wallace Beery, Margaret Leahy, Oliver Hardy. Directed
by Keaton and Eddie Cline. Produced by Joseph M. Schenk. Story
by Clyde Bruckman, Joseph Mitchell, and Jean Havez. Keaton's
first feature film, a parody of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance.
We see Father Time with his sickle. He opens the "Book of
the Three Ages" whose Preface reads: "If you let your
mind wander back through History you will find that the only thing
that has not changed since the World began is -- Love. Love is
the unchanging axis on which the World revolves. There is no
better way to prove this than by comparing the love stories of
three widely separate periods of Time. As appropriate examples
we have selected the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and the Modern
In five rounds, we see the three ages paralleled
in terms of Keaton's pursuit of Margaret Leahy despite his rival
Wallace Beery (who will play Challenger in The Lost World).
In the Stone Age segments, Beery is first seen riding a mastodon.
Keaton enters the film riding a dinosaur (evocative of his later
relationship with The General). A claymation Keaton looks about
from the top of the dinosaur's head. This is the only dinosaur
moment in the film, but other enjoyable Stone Age moments include
Keaton presenting what he calls "My card!"--an enormous
stone tablet--and the use of a turtle as a "Wee Gee"
[Ouija] (paralleled with a soothsayer from Roman times and the
"Modern" flower: "she loves me; she loves me not").
Keaton is also dragged off by a mastodon as punishment for cheating
at the caveman version of golf (with "clubs"). After
a rock fight, Keaton drags his woman off by her hair and we see
her rapturous face.
The Roman Age offers a chariot race in which
Keaton uses sled dogs (which he changes like spare tires, and
motivates with a cat suspended on a pole). The Modern Age features
football and, more enjoyably, a cop chase and wedding rescue.
Finally, we see the cave couple emerge with an enormous brood, the Roman couple emerge with a few children, and the Modern couple walking a dog. [What is this supposed to mean? The twentieth century doesn't breed tons of brats obsessively?]
Commentary: Rosa Rio's organ score includes clever echoes of "Stouthearted Men," "The Baby Elephant Walk," "In My Merry Oldsmobile," "Ain't She Sweet," "Let It Snow," "Buckle Down Winsockie," etc. Buster Keaton is terrific; I wish I could track down that Samuel Beckett film he did, called, I think, Film.