Our Hospitality (image 1)

Screened as part of NZIFF 2002

Our Hospitality 1923

Directed by Buster Keaton, John G. Blystone

74 minutes 35mm

Screenplay

Clyde Bruckman
,
Jean C. Havez
,
Joseph A. Mitchell

Photography

Gordon Jennings
,
Elgin Lessley

Art director

Fred Gabourie

With

Buster Keaton
,
Natalie Talmadge
,
Joe Roberts
,
Joe Keaton
,
Craig Ward
,
Buster Keaton Jr

Elsewhere

The Festival and the Auckland Philharmonia are proud to present another classic comedy event, guaranteed to entertain anyone from eight to 88. Don’t miss the only chance to catch the poker-faced prince of deadpan, Buster Keaton, in Our Hospitality as it was supposed to be experienced; at the Civic, in a superb new print, with Carl Davis’ orchestral score performed live. 

Our Hospitality was only Keaton’s second feature-length movie, but it touches perfection in its integration of comedy and dramatic suspense. The spectacular waterfall sequence is as thrilling and funny an acrobatic feat as you could hope to see, and it was performed, exactly as you see it, by the star himself.

Our Hospitality is generally considered Buster Keaton’s first true feature and one of his major accomplishments. To watch it today with a new score by Carl Davis, is to be reminded of the tremendous sense of freedom that the great silent-era clowns had… This film is Keaton’s take-off on the Hatfield and McCoy feud. He casts himself as a young man raised on his aunt’s farm in Manhattan (at Broadway and 42nd Street!) who, after coming of age, heads south to collect his inheritance. 

Keaton devotes the first part of his picture to all the mishaps that befall him as a passenger aboard a quaint and exceedingly delicate-looking 1930 train travelling through Appalachia. Once he arrived at his destination, he unwittingly heads right smack into his family’s ancient enemies – and falls for its fair maiden in the process. Keaton works the tradition of Southern hospitality for all it’s worth: as long as he is a guest in the white-columned mansion of those sworn to kill him, he is safe. How he escapes and how he survives leads to timelessly amusing and progressively dangerous escapades, one involving an attempt to navigate a waterfall. 

There’s a poignant footnote to this lovely, airy comedy. Keaton cast his pretty wife Natalie Talmadge (sister of the more famous Constance and Norma) as his leading lady and even used their baby son in the film, as a way of holding together their troubled marriage. Like all of Keaton’s films, Our Hospitality is suffused with wistfulness.” — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times 

Our Hospitality – with The General, one of Keaton’s most perfect films – is built with the dramatic integrity of a high adventure story… Perhaps nowhere else in all Keaton’s work are we so strikingly aware of the combination of his gifts.” — David Robinson, Buster Keaton 

Carl Davis is the doyen of contemporary composers for silent film. His big symphonic scores for Intolerance, Ben Hur and The Wedding March have thrilled Auckland Live Cinema audiences. His score for Our Hospitality reproduces the playful style and smaller scale of orchestral accompaniment that would have been standard fare at the Civic in the 1920s. This authenticity notwithstanding, the originality of Davis’ melodic lines and the intricacy of synchronisation refine the art of film accompaniment far beyond the capacities of the old cinema pit bands. 

Marc Taddei is the Auckland Philharmonia’s first Associate Conductor. He has conducted in North America and Europe and is a frequent guest conductor throughout New Zealand. Along with his subscription concerts, he has recorded soundtracks for TV3, the New Zealand Natural History Film Unit and Britain’s Channel Four (with the Auckland Philharmonia) – the Channel Four soundtrack was for a half-hour puppet animation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle which won the prestigious Prix de Basle special jury award for the most outstanding contribution to European culture in television in December 2000.