Roscoe Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St John in: The Bell Boy

Well, why not carry on the Arbuckle-Keaton-St John theme, then? For today here’s their 1918 half-hour film The Bell Boy, featuring “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton as bellboys (and Al St John as the desk clerk), puttering around in gags set at a small-town hotel and then, as I believe every silent-era movie set in a hotel does, getting to foiling a robbery.

This movie has one of those moments that was just enlightening to me under a “how they used to do things”, as there’s a horse-drawn trolley and while I know I’d read about trolleys and railroad trains that used animals I somehow hadn’t really visualized them in the way that a couple seconds of this film allowed me to do.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

8 thoughts on “Roscoe Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St John in: The Bell Boy”

    1. I’m not positive it’s right to say they were done with no safety devices, but they certainly were done with less of a safety margin than we’d consider reasonable today (especially for A-list stars, though then again we could ask whether Arbuckle and Keaton were A-list stars this early on). That isn’t to say they weren’t still taking amazing risks, though; Keaton’s famously believed to have broken his back without realizing it at the time, and Harold Lloyd almost as famously lost several fingers to a stage explosive. That has the follow-on astounding point that for the several movies in the 1920s and 1930s where he climbs buildings, he’s doing so with one and a half hands.


        1. That’s the one, yes, thank you. It’s hard to say whether it’s more amazing or horrifying that he could crack several vertebra and carry on without showing it on-screen or realizing it afterwards.


    1. Oh, yes, certainly do have to love them, at least outside the parts where stuff we’d now view as horribly sexist or racist got in. It’s still possible to love what was good about the rest, but a painfully bad scene can spoil the rest of the movie.


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