Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Buster Keaton
|Produced by||Joseph M. Schenck
|Written by||Clyde Bruckman
Joseph A. Mitchell
|Edited by||Buster Keaton|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn Pictures|
Sherlock Jr. (1924) is an American silent comedy film directed by and starring Buster Keaton and written by Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez and Joseph A. Mitchell. It features Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton and Ward Crane.
In 1991, Sherlock Jr. was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In 2000, the American Film Institute, as part of its AFI 100 Years... series, ranked the film #62 in its list of the funniest films of all time (AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs).
A movie theater projectionist and janitor (Buster Keaton) is in love with a beautiful girl (Kathryn McGuire). However, he has a rival, the "local sheik" (Ward Crane). Neither has much money. The projectionist buys a $1 box of chocolates, all he can afford, and changes the price to $4 before giving it and a ring to her. The sheik steals and pawns the girl's father's pocket watch for $4. With the money, he buys a $3 box of chocolates for the girl. When the father notices his watch is missing, the sheik slips the pawn ticket into the projectionist's pocket unnoticed. The projectionist, studying to be a detective, offers to solve the crime, but when the pawn ticket is found, is banished from the girl's home.
While showing a film about the theft of a pearl necklace, he falls asleep and dreams that he enters the movie as a detective. The other actors are replaced by the projectionist's "real" acquaintances. When he awakens, the girl shows up to tell him that she learned the identity of the real thief after going to the pawn shop to see who actually pawned the pocket watch. As a reconciliation is playing on the screen, he mimics the actor's behavior.
- Buster Keaton as Projectionist / Sherlock Jr.
- Kathryn McGuire as The Girl
- Joe Keaton as The Girl's Father
- Erwin Connelly as The Hired Man / The Butler
- Ward Crane as The Local Sheik / The Villain
- Ford West as Theatre Manager / Gillette, Sherlock's assistant
Keaton spent more time shooting this film than most of his others, due to the elaborate stunts and effects. Due to poor reception at previews, Keaton cut the film down a couple times. Thus, Sherlock Jr. is shorter than his other features.
Keaton's Projectionist appears to walk into the movie screen, an early example of a film within a film. The scene shifted back and forth several times from the projectionist's booth to the movie. For the last shift, instead of the movie being projected onto the screen, there was a stage with live actors, designed to replicate the look of the movie. Therefore, Buster actually entered the stage, but created the illusion of joining the movie. Afterward, the scenery around him changes abruptly several times. In the 1940s, Keaton revealed that he and his cameraman had used surveyor's instruments to position him and the camera at exactly the right distances and positions to provide the illusion of continuity.
Although Sherlock Jr. was not a popular success in its day, it received critical praise from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlanta Constitution. Since its release, the movie has gone on to be recognized as a classic.
Recently, Time magazine named Sherlock Jr. as one of the All-Time 100 Movies. They wrote, "The impeccable comedian directs himself in an impeccable silent comedy...Is this, as some critics have argued, an example of primitive American surrealism? Sure. But let's not get fancy about it. It is more significantly, a great example of American minimalism—simple objects and movement manipulated in casually complex ways to generate a steadily rising gale of laughter. The whole thing is only 45 minutes long, not a second of which is wasted. In an age when most comedies are all windup and no punch, this is the most treasurable of virtues."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "[The film is] one of Buster's superior silent comedies that's noted for his usual deadpan humor, frolicsome slapstick, the number of very funny sight gags, the many innovative technical accomplishments and that he did his own stunts (including the dangerous one where he was hanging off a ladder connected to a huge water basin as the water poured out and washed him onto the railroad track, fracturing his neck nearly to the point of breaking it. Keaton suffered from severe migraines for years after making this movie)."
In 2012, it was ranked number 61 in a list of best edited films of all time as selected by the members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.
- The New York Times. Film review, May 26, 1924.
- The Los Angeles Times. Film review, April 28, 1924.
- The Washington Post. Film review, May 12, 1924.
- The Atlanta Constitution. Film review, April 27, 1924.
- Time. Film review, 2005. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 20, 2006. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.
- Sherlock Jr. at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.
- The 75 Best Edited Films. Last accessed: January 5, 2013.
- Sherlock Jr. at the Internet Movie Database
- Sherlock Jr. at AllMovie
- Sherlock Jr. at the TCM Movie Database
- Sherlock Jr. at Rotten Tomatoes
- on YouTube
- Sherlock Jr. at the International Buster Keaton Society
- Sherlock Jr on The Internet Archive