Released: October 3, 2012
Lincoln, Neb. - The world renowned Alloy Orchestra is returning to The Ross for the seventh year on Saturday, October 13 to perform their original scores for a program of comedy short films featuring Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, sponsored by Lincoln Benefit Life, an Allstate Company. The screening and performance will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Buster Keaton is widely recognized as one of the greatest comedians in film. Less well known these days is Keaton’s mentor and one of the first great film comedians – Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Alloy Orchestra’s Keaton and Arbuckle show features three short films by these two brilliant films stars.
Called “the best in the world at accompanying silent films” by Roger Ebert, the Alloy Orchestra is a three man—Terry Donahue (junk, accordion, musical saw, vocals), Ken Winokur (director, junk percussion and clarinet), and Roger Miller (keyboards)—musical ensemble, writing and performing live accompaniment to classic silent films. Working with an outrageous assemblage of peculiar objects, they thrash and grind soulful music from unlikely sources. Performing at prestigious film festivals and cultural centers in the US and abroad (The Telluride Film Festival, The Louvre, Lincoln Center, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the National Gallery of Art, and many others), Alloy has helped revive some of the great masterpieces of the silent era.
More information about the Alloy Orchestra at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, including ticketing details, is available at theross.org.
The Alloy Orchestra's 2012 performances at The Ross are sponsored by Lincoln Benefit Life, an Allstate Company, and the Friends of the Ross. This program is being presented with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.
About the films
Fatty Arbuckle (who never liked the nickname and preferred his given name, Roscoe) started as a vaudeville comedian and quickly gravitated to films. He first worked at the Selig Studios. He then moved on to Universal and became famous as one of the Keystone Cops in Mack Sennett’s film productions. Sennett quickly recognized Arbuckle’s numerous talents and the comedian was soon writing and directing his own pictures. In 1917, Arbuckle, along with noted producer Josef Schenck, formed his own film company, Comique.
Shortly after forming the new company, Arbuckle encountered Buster Keaton walking down a street. Arbuckle, by this time an international star both for his acting and his directing, recognized the 21 year old Keaton from his popular vaudeville act, and invited him to come by the set.
Keaton did just that, and was immediately put to work acting in Arbuckle’s current production, "The Butcher Boy" – Keaton’s first screen appearance. Arbuckle wisely encouraged Keaton to improvise gags. Although a seasoned comedian, Keaton’s signature deadpan style isn’t fully matured in this film. If you look carefully, you will even see him smile.
Arbuckle stars in the film and performs some amazing stunts including a dangerous bit juggling a sharp butcher knife. Keaton and Arbuckle worked together in a remarkably effective fashion and their rapport is instantly recognizable in this early effort.
Credits and Synopses
THE BUTCHER BOY
(1917, 27:54 minutes)
Directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Starring Arbuckle & Buster Keaton.
In a general store, Arbuckle does knife tricks as he works as a butcher. St. John and Luke grind pepper with a dog-powered grinder. Miss Teachem, from the girls boarding school, comes in and orders Arbuckle about; he glides around the store walls on a rolling ladder. Keaton arrives, pops a coin into his bucket, and asks for some molasses. Arbuckle fills it. Then Keaton tells him that the money is beneath the molasses, so he uses Keaton’s hat as a temporary molasses receptacle. Coin retrieved, Keaton puts his hat on and can’t get it off. Arbuckle pulls it away, but then Keaton’s shoe is stuck in a molasses puddle. After many tries, Arbuckle dissolves the sticky stuff with hot water, then loosens him with a kick. Keaton crashes into the proprietor, who tells him to get out.
Arbuckle and Stevens spoon, and she asks him about marriage. His rival, St. John, sees them kiss. A flour war commences. Keaton comes back, and hostilities escalate to pies. It’s a mess. The manager decides to send his daughter off to Miss Teachem’s boarding school.
At school, Stevens isn’t allowed to receive Arbuckle’s letter. She cries outside. Arbuckle, dressed as a schoolgirl, comes with Luke to rescue her. While Luke waits, Miss Teachem registers Arbuckle as Stevens’ cousin, Saccharine. St. John arrives with a similar plan; his helpers are Keaton and Bordeau. They wait in the cold while St. John, Arbuckle, and the girls go in to dinner. Despite his dress, St. John snorts while he slurps his soup, and Arbuckle’s manners aren’t much better. Later, Miss Teachem assigns Stevens, Arbuckle, and St. John to one room. Stevens leaves to put on her pajamas, and the fight begins. Miss Teachem intervenes and spanks Arbuckle. St. John calls in Keaton and Bordeau, and Luke joins them. They try to kidnap Stevens, but Luke keeps the three men from escaping. Miss Teachem catches them, and holding them at gunpoint, calls the police. Arbuckle and Stevens get out and find themselves by the Reverend Henry Smith’s house. They decide they might as well get married. – Lisle Foote
GOOD NIGHT, NURSE!
(1918, 23:35 minutes)
Directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Starring Arbuckle & Buster Keaton.
On a rainy night, a drunken Arbuckle tries to light a cigarette while standing on a street corner. He unsuccessfully tries using a windblown woman’s umbrella (Keaton in drag) and a fellow drunk’s hat as a windbreak. Finally, he asks an organ grinder and his female companion to play the national anthem. A nearby cop takes off his hat, and Arbuckle is able to use that as a shield from the storm. The cop takes the cigarette and smokes it himself as he strolls away. Arbuckle addresses and stamps the other anti-Prohibitionist and leaves him on a post box. He takes the musical couple home.
Chez Arbuckle, the butler tells Mrs. A. about the No Hope Sanatorium, where they cure alcoholism with an operation. Arbuckle arrives, and his disreputable companions, their music and dancing (as well as their monkey) convince her to send him to No Hope.
The next day, she delivers him to the hospital. Mental patient Lake jumps into his arms, but the attendants drag her away. Doctors St. John and Keaton march him to Room 13, where they undress and examine him. He eats the thermometer. They put him, struggling, onto a gurney and wheel him to surgery. St. John administers a healthy dose of ether and Arbuckle fades out.
He wakes up in his room, happy to find all of his body parts still there. Lake comes in, and they decide to escape. However, after they sneak past Keaton and St. John, she cries and wants to go back. He throws himself into the pool and plays dead at the bottom. She runs back to the hospital and alerts the attendants. Meanwhile, Arbuckle has rigged up a hose to blow bubbles in the pool, which tricks the orderlies into diving in after him. He goes back inside and steals the rotund Price’s nurses uniform. He and Keaton flirt outrageously in the hallway until Price comes back and rips the uniform off of him. He runs outside. In his skivvies, he easily blends in with the runners in the Great Heavyweight Race going past the hospital. He wins and collects the $500 purse. Keaton and St. John catch him, but then he wakes up in the operating room. – Lisle Foote
(1921, 22:41 minutes)
Directed by Edward F. Cline. Starring Buster Keaton.
Keaton is the whole show in this Playhouse: audience, musicians, performers, and stagehand. He enters the theater where an all-Keaton band plays. Soon the Keaton minstrels take the stage as the Keatons in the audience watch. Next, two dancing Keatons perform in unison. Keaton, in bed and asleep, applauds them. He's woken from his dream by Joe Roberts, who appears to be repossessing the furniture. The walls slide away, revealing backstage dressing rooms. After the stagehands put away his bedroom suite, he sweeps the floor.