by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
In the flick, Seven Chances, Buster plays James Shannon, a broker who is…broke. After he learns that his grandfather has passed away and that he is the sole heir set to inherit seven million dollars, his financial problems seem to be a thing of the past. The only catch is, that in order to receive the loot he has to be married by 7:00 pm on his twenty-seventh birthday. No big deal, except that he is set to turn twenty-seven in twenty-four hours. To say this creates a mad dash to the alter is quite the understatement. As the time ticks away, James’ desperation to find a bride, any bride, grows.
His first attempt at wedded bliss seems like an obvious choice, a girlfriend who we are first introduced to at the start of the film. Through several vignettes we witness the passing of the seasons and the growth of their love for one another. As seasons pass, Buster pines to profess his love to his special lady friend by asking for her hand in marriage, but each time seems to chicken out. When he learns of his possible new-found fortune he thinks the proposal will go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, James’ words don’t seem to come out right, sending him on a wild goose chase in search of a bride.
The escapade starts with James foolishly walking up to women in a tea room asking, “marry me”. This leads to some entertaining interactions but overall does not provide the result James is looking for. After numerous failed attempts, James’ friends and partners at his brokerage firm decide to take matters into their own hands. A newspaper ad is placed: ALL HE NEEDS IS A BRIDE.
Requesting girls to appear in “bridal costume”, ladies travel by car, horse, bike, foot, trolley and even roller skates to the church in hopes to be the next Mrs. Shannon. Meanwhile, the infamous bachelor is passed out in the front church pew, only to awaken to a bunch of desperate ladies donning wedding gowns of all varieties. This group quickly turns into an angry mob when the officiant announces that this was all just a silly joke. With their veils flowing in the wind, the brides hit the pavement chasing down young James.
In this action sequence James resembled the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Racing against a clock, late for his important date! What I love about silent film is there is so much responsibility placed on the images to show the audience what is happening. Words do not matter, they mean nothing. The filmmaker must show us the story and are not able to rely on the use of language. Showing rather than telling seems to be a lost art in many of today’s films. Directors are so quick to throw in some voice over narration or have a character explain the story away. Of course, silent films do have the capability to fall back on the use of title cards to help tell their story. However, this is something that Buster Keaton used as a last resort and prided himself for it. I was surprised to learn that Seven Chances was one of Buster’s least favorite films. He despised it so much that he desperately attempted to keep the only copy of the film from being restored by a historian.
This may not be my favorite Buster Keaton movie, but overall, I found it quite enjoyable. It really left me pondering what it would be like to tell Mr. Keaton: I do, with or without seven mil.
Watch it now: Seven Chances a Buster Keaton flick