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Film / Our Hospitality

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Our Hospitality is a 1923 silent comedy starring Buster Keaton, directed by Keaton and John Blystone.

Buster plays Willie McKay, 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. It turns out that Buster's family and his girlfriend's family are on the opposite sides of a long-standing feud. 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.
  • Author Appeal: Keaton had a passion for railroads and wanted the story to coincide with their invention. He had art director Fred Grabourne build fully functional replicas of trains with attention to every detail of their authenticity. However, Keaton chose not to use the early US DeWitt Clinton engine and instead had Grabourne build a replica of Stephenson's Rocket because he thought it looked funnier.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: A variation, where Willie is saved by the waterfall pouring down in front of him.
  • Convenient Misfire: When one of the Canfield boys tries to ambush Willie, his firearm fails. It then works for Willie though.
  • 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.
  • 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: When Willie hears of his inheritance, he has a vision of a gracious plantation home. When he arrives and finds out the ramshackle building that he has acquired, he imagines the same house...exploding.
  • 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.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Apparently the McKay home was left untenanted after the remaining family fled.
  • No Name Given: Several main characters are not being referred to by name, e.g. the Girl, the Canfield sons and the Parson.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Of a sort— the title card describing how McKay was raised in New York City by his aunt also says "NOTE: Broadway and Forty-Second Street as it was in 1830. From an old print." before cutting to the two dirt roads that make up the famous intersection.
  • 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.
  • Signature Headgear: Played with, Willie at first sports a period accurate (and very cool) flared top hat, then switches to Buster's signature flat hat.
  • 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).
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Considering that if he leaves, the Canfields will kill him, Willie does his damnedest to invoke this.
  • 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.