Our Hospitality (1923, Buster Keaton & John G. Blystone)The oldest movie on my list is my favorite movie from my favorite comedian, Buster Keaton. I've written before about my love of Keaton, and although the brilliance that is The General is the consensus "greatest Keaton," I was most blown away by Our Hospitality. Just his second full length movie (after the hit-and-miss Three Ages, and before his groundbreaking work with Sherlock, Jr.), Keaton runs on all cylinders. First of all, just the plot is hysterical. City slicker Keaton, on his way to take over his family's Southern mansion, befriends pretty Natalie Talmadge (Keaton's real-life wife at the time), who invites him to dinner at her family home. Upon meeting Talmadge's father and brothers, Keaton learns that he is the last surviving member of a family with whom Talmadge's kin have been feuding for over 20 years. The brothers are all for killing Keaton on the spot, but Talmadge's father (Joe Roberts) insists that the rules of hospitality be observed: so long as Keaton is a guest in the house, he will not be harmed. Overhearing this conversation, Keaton decides to just not leave, and spends a good section of the movie figuring out ways not to go home.
This would be a terrific movie to show people who wouldn't normally go the movie nerd route of watching silent movies. It was funny in 1923, and it's funny now. Keaton's unbelievable stunt work is a marvel to behold. Sometimes you're so thrilled by Keaton's stunts you don't actually realize how hilarious he is. He's so deadpan that he never brings the attention to being funny, so I occasionally get caught up in the breathtaking work he does without comedy. After all, this was long before the days of CGI. That really is Keaton, really dangling from a rope, really nearly drowning under a waterfall. The stunt nearly drowned Keaton when he tried filming at a real waterfall (he made a prop waterfall instead to finish the scene). It's amazing from a technical perspective, if you're into that kinda thing (which, of course, I am), but if you just want to look at the surface and spend 75 minutes laughing your ass off, it's good for that too. Both are reasons why it's one of my top movies of all time.