Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

“The Three Ages” (1923, b/w), showing tonight (Friday, Jan. 30) at the Organ Loft with live music/sound-effects accompaniment by the incredibly talented Blaine Gale, is a delightful feature from the silent era and a perfect showcase for Keaton’s inventive pantomime comedy.

The film was an experiment in 1923, however. Keaton was popular in 20-minute shorts and had one feature under his belt, “The Saphead” (1920) — but for that one he was an actor for hire. Could he write and direct and star in something that would appeal to audiences of the day?

Since there are now so many Keaton classic features in his catalog, we know the answer. But in those days, the ever-cautious studio wasn’t sure.

So they let Keaton make the movie as long as he kept it to three 20-minute segments tied together as a feature — then, if the film flopped, they could release them later as shorts. Fortunately, it was a success.


      Margaret Leahy, Buster Keaton, 'Three Ages'

The three ages of the title are prehistoric times, ancient Rome and the modern-day Roaring ’20s, with Keaton romancing his lady love (Margaret Leahy) and each “Age” providing plenty of fodder for laughs. Wallace Beery co-stars as his rival in each story.

Keaton went on to give us many more features, but “The Three Ages” — which was lost for some time and eventually turned up in a deteriorated print that has since been restored — is a glimpse of his formative years and his burgeoning talent.

Oh, and it’s very funny.