Three Ages is a 1923 film directed by and starring Buster Keaton.
For his first feature film, Keaton made an Affectionate Parody of D W Griffith's Intolerance, in which a Love Triangle plays out in prehistoric times, during the Roman Empire, and in 1920s America. (The idea was that if the feature-length version flopped, it could be re-edited into three separate shorts.)note The film was almost lost to posterity, because by the 1950s the negative was badly damaged. It was eventually salvaged, but some shots are still heavily obscured.
Wallace Beery plays "The Villain", namely, Buster's antagonist in all three stories.
This film provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Of Intolerance, a big Epic Movie that presented four different stories with similar themes at four different points in human history.
- Anachronism Stew: In the stone age and Roman eras.
- Big Little Man: Caveman Buster tries to grab a woman lying on the ground by the hair and drag her away, as cavemen were apt to do back then. The woman stands up and turns out to be a good two feet taller than Buster.
- Dragged by the Collar: A variation. In the stone age segments, female characters are sometimes dragged by their hair.
- Loves Me Not: In the modern era, the boy tries using this method to find out whether the girl likes him. Unfortunately, he didn't notice that the flower had a bee on it.
- Love Triangle: All three stories have Buster going up against a much bigger tough guy (namely, Wallace Beery) for the love of pretty Margaret Leahy.
- Nubile Savage: Margaret Leahy, who plays the love interest in all three eras, got her start in films by winning a beauty contest.
- The Oner: A caveman throws a rock at Buster, who uses a club to smack the stone back at his attacker, beaning him. Buster made a point of doing this gag in a single, continuous shot.
- Roof Hopping: Subverted — even using a plank as a springboard, he doesn't make it. (This was an actual mishap that was worked into the film.)
- Spoof Aesop: When The Roman-era boy winds up in a lion's cage, he recalls that someone, somewhere, did something to a lion's paw...and gives the lion a pedicure.
- Stop Motion: Used in the first Stone Age section so Buster can ride a dinosaur.
- Three Lines, No Waiting
- Throw It In!: The failed Roof Hopping.