Bill Canfield, Jr., now in college, visits his father whom he’s not seen since he was a baby. Bill Sr. is the owner and captain of a riverboat that has seen better days. His rival is John James King who owns a new, luxurious riverboat. Bill Sr. is hoping his son can help him get his riverboat back on track, but when junior shows up wearing a beret and carrying a ukulele, he is sorely disappointed. To make matters worse, Bill Jr. and King’s daughter, Kitty, are in love. Both business rivals are determined to break up the relationship. As the feud heats up, a cyclone hits, tearing down buildings and endangering both men’s riverboats. On his way through the town to the docks to try to save the boats and the woman he loves, Bill Jr. encounters flying debris and a building front falls around him - Keaton's best known stunt. .
Buster Keaton (1895-1966) is considered one of the greatest comedians of all time, possessing the unique combination of acrobatic skills with psychological insight into his characters. Born Joseph Francis Keaton, he got the name “Buster” when he fell down a flight of stairs, unhurt, at six months old. Harry Houdini picked him up, stating that the kid could really take a “buster” or fall. By age three, he was part of his parent’s vaudeville act where he was knocked down and thrown through windows – just the training needed to prepare him for the fast-paced slapstick comedy of silent films. He had worked with everyone from Marlene Dietrich to Samuel Beckett, Cecil B. DeMille to Tony Randall. Today, Keaton’s films are just as funny, touching, and relevant as ever. Other films of his include Our Hospitality (1923), The Navigator (1924), Go West (1925), The General (1927), The Cameraman (1928), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966).
Film critic Rogert Ebert wrote: “Keaton's works have such a graceful perfection, such a meshing of story, character and episode, that they unfold like music. Although they're filled with gags, you can rarely catch Keaton writing a scene around a gag; instead, the laughs emerge from the situation. And in an age when special effects were in their infancy, and a “stunt” often meant actually doing on the screen what you appeared to be doing, Keaton was ambitious and fearless.”
Silent films were accompanied by an organ, piano, and sometimes a full orchestra: the beginnings of film scoring as we know it. From Charlie Chaplin, who scored his own films, to John Williams and Thomas Newman of today, the power of music accompanying a silent or a talking film cannot be undervalued. Experienced composers know that music enhances the action and emotion, but never overshadows it.
Providing the live musical accompaniment for all these films is Wayne Zimmerman, who has been playing for ELTC and The Cape May Film Society’s Silent Film Series since 2011. Wayne has played in a variety of venues from coast-to-coast and in Hawaii, regaling audiences with his silent-film accompaniment and concerts. At varying times he’s served as organist at the Lansdowne Theatre in Lansdowne, PA, the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA, the Brookline Theatre in Havertown, PA, and the Merlin Theatre in suburban Philadelphia. Currently he is president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.