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Coney Island – Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton

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Buster Keaton in "Coney Island"
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Coney Island (1917) starring Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St. John

 Coney Island is a silent short comedy starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, with Buster Keaton in a secondary role. Buster is interesting to watch, in that he hasn’t yet developed his trademark stoneface personality, and can be seen laughing, etc.

The film begins with Fatty Arbuckle at the beach with his controlling wife. She reads a magazine while he’s clearly bored. He wants to go to the famous Coney Island amusement park, but she’ll hear nothing about it. After watching a dog digging a hole, Fatty digs a hole and buries himself in it. His wife thinks that he’s vanished! While she goes off to look for him, once he sees that the coast is clear (with the aid of a periscope) he’s off!

In the meantime, Buster Keaton is going to Coney Island with his girlfriend (Alice Mann) – he climbs a light pole to see a parade, and in the meantime Al St. John comes by and walks off with Buster’s girlfriend. Soon, Fatty steals her from Al, and the conflict begins.

Coney Island - Buster Keaton climbing a street lamp

There’s a lot of slapstick, as the different people fight for the affection of Alice — and as Fatty tries to avoid his wife. At one point, Fatty tries to rent a swimming suit (yes, way back then, people rented swimming suits at an amusement park), and there’s nothing in his size — and so he “borrows” a fat woman’s swimming suit.  This leads to some awkward humor as he tries to pass as a woman in the ladies’ room, etc.

Eventually, Buster and Alice reunite, and Fatty and Al are thrown into the same jail cell — leading to a conflict between Fatty and the Keystone Kops, and ending with the two of them escaping from jail and swearing off women; until the next pretty woman comes by.

Funny quotes from Coney Island

Fatty: [about the life guard] That’s the Statue of Liberty’s husband.
Bathing suit renter: [to Fatty] We can’t fit you, hire a tent.
Fatty’s wife: Who is that fat lady?
Buster Keaton: He ain’t a lady, she’s a man!
Fatty: Put this man [Al St. John] in the same cell with me.

Cast of characters

  • Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle (A Film Johnnie) … Fatty
  • Joe Bordeaux … Sledgehammer Man / Cop
  • Jimmy Bryant … Undetermined Role
  • Luke the Dog … Dog Digging on Beach
  • Buster Keaton (The General, Sherlock Jr.) … Rival / Cop with Moustache
  • Alice Lake … Girl at Vanity Table
  • Alice Mann … Pretty Girl
  • Agnes Neilson … Fatty’s Wife
  • Al St. John (The Rounders) … Old Friend of Fatty’s Wife

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