The ‘High Sign’ (1921)

For me, the best part of Buster Keaton being TCM’s Star of the Month has been finally getting to see more of Buster’s short films.  I’d already seen most of his features, but I hadn’t seen many of the shorter ones, so getting to see so many of them all at once was really a treat.  I thought I’d just say a few things about The ‘High Sign,’ one of my favorites that I was introduced to this month.  In The ‘High Sign,’ Buster plays a sharpshooter who gets hired as a bodyguard for a man whose life has been threatened and then is hired as a hit man to kill the same guy he’d been hired to protect.

This was the first independent two-reeler that Buster made, but he wasn’t particularly happy with it and held off releasing it until after One Week had been released.  I don’t really get why Buster wasn’t happy with it because I thought it was brilliant.  It’s only 21 minutes long, but it’s chock full of fantastic jokes.  First there was that great entrance of him falling off the train.  But there are also the great moments where he struggles with the newspaper,  where he steals the cop’s gun and replaces it with a banana, or when the cop is chasing him and to get away, he turns his jacket around and tries to disguise himself as a priest.  And that’s not even getting into the incredible sequence where Buster chases the gang through a house full of trap doors.  That scene was truly a marvel of timing and staging, it needs to be seen to be believed.  It’s just amazing.  Buster got more laughs from me in 21 minutes than most modern comedies got from me in two hours.

Carly from The Kitty Packard Pictorial has been hosting Project Keaton all this month. To take a look back at some of the other Buster Keaton related things that have been posted this month, be sure to check the Project Keaton Tumblr page.