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Film: Our Hospitality

Our Hospitality is a 1923 silent comedy directed by and starring Buster Keaton.
Buster manages to mine humor from the late-nineteenth-century Hatfield-McCoy feud, playing a New Yorker who heads south to claim an inheritance, only to find that the father and brothers of the girl who invited him to dinner have sworn to kill him. Fortunately, he's perfectly safe as long as he's a guest under their roof...


This film provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: An embroidered sampler that reads "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is featured prominently in the prologue and at the conclusion.
  • Aside Glance: Willie stares directly into the camera just before he's yanked off a ledge.
  • California Doubling: Actually, California and Oregon doubling for, presumably, Virginia, the site of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: A variation, where Willie is saved by the waterfall pouring down in front of him.
  • Cool Train: A line of coaches pulled by a replica of the 1829 Stephenson's Rocket.
  • Culture Clash: An enraged Willie separates a husband from strangling his wife in public, only to get beaten by the wife for intervening. Apparently this is a regular thing.
  • Disguised in Drag: One method Willie uses in an attempt to escape the Canfields.
  • Elopement: How the feud finally ends.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Canfields don't kill Willie because it's disrespectful to kill anyone who is a guest in their house.
  • Evil Is Bigger: All three Canfield men tower over Buster's Willie McKay.
  • Expy: The Canfield-McKay antipathy is obviously meant to evoke the legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud.
  • Extended Disarming: Willie at the very end of the movie.
  • Feuding Families: The mainspring of the plot. We never find out what started it.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: Subverted, as the waterfall created by the sudden flood saves Willie's life.
  • Hidden Weapons: In the final scene, Willie reveals a large number of pistols concealed on him.
  • Imagine Spot: Willie's visions of a gracious plantation home.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: The site of the movie's climax.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Played straight in the prologue.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Several.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Willie learns that Sacred Hospitality is the only thing keeping him alive, he contrives to stay inside the house as long as possible, while he's fair game the second he steps foot outside, even if it's to get to another part of the house.
  • Miniature Effects: Used for Willie's visions and the demolition of a dam.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Apparently the McKay home was left untenanted after the remaining family fled.
  • Nice Hat: Willie at first sports a period accurate (and very cool) flared top hat, then switches to Buster's signature flat hat.
  • No Name Given: Several main characters are not being referred to by name, e.g. the Girl, the Canfield sons and the Parson.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: When one of the Canfield boys tries to ambush Willie, his firearm fails. It then works for Willie though.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Why the Canfield patriarch stops his sons from killing Willie when he (unaware of his hosts' identity) comes for dinner.
  • Shown Their Work: The locomotive made for the film was so historically accurate that the Smithsonian Institution asked if they could display it after the film was finished.
  • Sleep Cute: Willie and the girl on the train.
  • Soft Water: How Willie and one of the Canfield boys survive falling hundreds of feet off a cliff.
  • Southern Belle: The Girl.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Alas, that nice girl who Willie met on the train is a Canfield.
  • Stop Motion Lighting: The only illumination for the pistol fight between Willie McKay's father and Joseph Canfield's brother comes from lightning and the muzzle flashes from their guns.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: The exact location is not specified (the prologue title refers to "certain sections of the United States"), but we are clearly Down South (though not quite in the Deep South).
  • Title Drop: "He'll never forget our hospitality," the senior Canfield says ominously (via title card) on learning his daughter's invited the man who turns out to be Willie over for dinner.
  • Trigger Happy: The Canfield family.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: What sends Willie south.
  • What a Drag: Willie is dragged by the train.

The NavigatorFilms of the 1920sSeven Chances

alternative title(s): Our Hospitality
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