Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse. As an out-going Snake, I’m a bit–oh well, at least this isn’t the Year of the Pig–but it is a year to ‘unremittingly’ improve one’s self in a ‘bright’ and ‘cheerful’ manner. Again, hopefully, there’s no Orwellian, Animal Farm-pigs around…
In honor of the pedaling of the Chinese cycle, I have a couple of appropriate films to check out, Buster Keaton’s short The Blacksmith (1922) and former silent film Hoot Gibson’s equine feature The Wild Horse (1931). Both are available free via FilmOn’s on demand service.
Keaton’s film is effortlessly perceptive as always. In Blacksmith, he plays the ambitious, amorous assistant to the proprietor of an early sort-of AAMCO bellows shop in Los Angeles, dealing with both horses and automobiles as the transition to the new transmission was still in full swing. The ‘AAMCO’ comparison carries further with the commercial-like confused gestures of the customers as they try to describe their issues to Keaton, suiting the silent medium well.
In the space of less than 20 minutes Keaton manages to lay out the social implications of the new vehicles of a cultural and personal level, as well as suggesting a few coping strategies. There’s even an ‘Iron’ horse thrown into the mix for the typically wild climax.
Buster Keaton’s Blacksmith is available to watch free via FilmOn:
Which brings us to Wild Horse. Based on a story by Western writer Peter B. Kyne and appearing to be also shot in Southern California locations (likely Gibson’s Saugus, CA ranch and what looks like an early version of the Rose Bowl), the film has a cinema-verité vibe relating to the early 20th Century infusion of technological advances into the ‘Wild’ West not unlike Keaton’s film.
The horse’s indomitable spirit is at the forefront here in the embodiment of the ‘Devil’ Horse and the attempts to tame it, although there are other plots such as Gibson’s character ‘Jim Wright’ being framed for the murder of his partner, true cowboy (and wearer of a hat Pharrell would kill for) ‘Skeeter’ Bill Robbins. The film itself represented an only partially successful attempt by Gibson to transition to talkies, and more controversially, an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Stepin Fetchit who has some seemingly random comic interludes.
Wild Horse is available to watch free via FilmOn:
More classics are streaming on the Hollywoodland Channel on FilmOn:
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