Buster Keaton's SEVEN CHANCES, though not one of his greatest silent films, is still a very charming and amusing comedy about a man who has to get married in one day in order to inherit $7 million.
Jimmie Shannon (Buster Keaton), a partner in a brokerage firm, has been dating his sweetheart Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer) for over a year, but can't tell her he loves her. A lawyer tells Jimmie that he has inherited $7 million from his grandfather, providing he gets married by 7:00 P.M. on his 27th
birthday, which happens to be that day. Jimmie's partner, Billie (T. Roy Barnes), who needs money to stay out of jail due to a bad business deal, urges Jimmie to propose to Mary immediately. He does so, but she gets angry and turns him down when he tells her he has to marry some girl, any girl, by
7 o'clock. Jimmie goes back to work, and Mary calls his office, but Jimmie's phone extension is off the hook and she overhears him saying that he loves her. She writes him a note saying that he better not marry anybody except her and gives it to a handyman to deliver to him.
Jimmie and Billie go to a country club, and Billie tells him to ask seven women at the club to get married. Jimmie asks, but they all think he's kidding and laugh him off. Billie tells Jimmie that he'll find him a bride and that he should meet him at the church at 5 o'clock. After Billie leaves,
Jimmie finds someone who accepts, but she turns out to be a little girl dressed in her mother's coat and hat. He then drives alongside a woman in a car, but smashes into a tree. Another woman he asks pulls out a Hebrew newspaper, and a woman he follows from behind turns out to be black. Billie
places a story in a newspaper about Jimmie's predicament and advertises for a bride. Jimmie proposes to a woman in a barber chair, but she's a mannequin, and he's beat up after going into a theater and propositioning a drag queen.
Jimmie goes to the church early and falls asleep, and hundreds of women who read the advertisement begin to show up at the church. Jimmie awakens and sees the women fighting over him, and he escapes. Mary's handyman gives him the note, and Jimmie tells Billie to bring a minister to Mary's house
and he'll be there by 7. The angry women chase Jimmie down the street and onto a construction site, where he gets stuck on a crane's hook and is flung through the air. They chase him up a mountain and as he runs down, thousands of boulders start to roll down and smash into him, scaring the women
away. Jimmie finally arrives at Mary's, but the lawyer's watch shows it's 7:03. Jimmie goes outside and sees a clocktower that shows 6:58, and the minister performs the ceremomy. Church bells ring and Jimmie tries to kiss Mary, but his dog sticks his head in between them.
SEVEN CHANCES was one of Keaton's least favorite of his own silent films, mostly due to the fact that his producer, Joseph M. Schenck, bought the property for him without consulting him, because Schenck felt that Keaton would be more commercially successful if he started to do more Harold
Lloyd-ish type roles. Unlike Keaton's usual films, filled with surreal sight gags and abstract plots, the story of SEVEN CHANCES is very linear and straightforward. There is also a relative lack of slapstick and stunts until near the end, and Keaton's character is atypically normal. Still, it's a
very enjoyable film, and there are a number of ingenious gags. Among them, the opening where Jimmie courts Mary in front of her house and the seasons change from summer-to-fall-to-winter-to-spring, and Jimmie is still standing in the same spot, while his tiny puppy has grown into a huge dog; the
way Keaton shoots the transition from Mary's house to the country club by keeping Jimmie's car stationary while the backgrounds change; the various hilarious marriage proposals and rejections; and the wild chase scene where the gang of women chase Jimmie through a variety of locations, including a
football game, through a turkish bath, into a field with crates of bees, past duck hunters firing rifles, and into a lake, where Jimmie emerges with a turtle attached to his tie. This sequence illustrates Keaton's unparalleled art of taking a simple idea and building it slowly until it escalates
into an infinite number of comical manifestations. SEVEN CHANCES also features one of the great comic set-pieces in film history-the incredible boulder scene. Originally, this was a much shorter sequence, but when preview audiences went wild for it, Keaton went back and reshot it, building some
1500 rocks, up to eight-feet in diameter, turning the scene into a comic tour-de-force that lasts for almost five minutes, and managing to save the film both commercially and artistically.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Buster Keaton's SEVEN CHANCES, though not one of his greatest silent films, is still a very charming and amusing comedy about a man who has to get married in one day in order to inherit $7 million. Jimmie Shannon (Buster Keaton), a partner in a brokerage… (more)