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The Saphead

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The Saphead (1920) starring Buster Keaton
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Editorial review of The Saphead (1920) starring Buster Keaton, courtesy of

 In his first starring role (and the film that launched his career), Buster Keaton stars in The Saphead as Bertie Van Alstyne, the spoiled son of a powerful Wall Street financier. Unable to escape the wealth and comfort that are foisted upon him, he pursues individuality in a series of comic misadventures in the speakeasies of New York, at the altar of matrimony, and even on the floor of the American stock exchange. The Saphead was instrumental in establishing Keaton as a bona fide star and greatly influenced his formulation of the Buster persona: a lonely, stone-faced soul thwarted by circumstance yet undauntedly resourceful and indefatigable in his struggle for love and survival within a chaotic world.

Quotes from The Saphead

Bertie: I’m good. I’ve tried my best to get over it – but I can’t – and I still kneel down and say my prayers every morning – before I go to bed.

Bertie: Do all these seats cost 100,000 dollars?

Bertie: All they do here is knock off hats, but I enjoy it. It occupies the mind.

Trivia for The Saphead

  • Douglas Fairbanks recommended Buster Keaton the role. Fairbanks had created the role on Broadway and turned down the chance to play it again in the film.
  • a hand double is in a close-up shot. To avoid showing that Keaton was missing his right index fingertip.
  • A rare Buster Keaton smile is visible. It’s in the scene in which Bertie reads the newspaper account on the raid of the gambling house.

Cast of characters

  • Edward Jobson … Reverend Murray Hilton
  • Beulah Booker … Agnes Gates
  • Edward Connelly (The Unholy Three) … Mr. Musgrave
  • Edward Alexander … Watson Flint
  • Irving Cummings (Curly Top) … Mark Turner
  • Odette Tyler … Mrs. Cornelia Opdyke
  • Carol Holloway … Rose Turner
  • Jack Livingston … Dr. George Wainright
  • William H. Crane … Nicholas Van Alstyne
  • Buster Keaton (Sherlock Jr., Seven Chances) … Bertie Van Alstyne

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