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Sherlock, Jr.

Theatrical poster
Directed by Buster Keaton
Produced by Joseph M. Schenck
Buster Keaton
Written by Clyde Bruckman
Jean Havez
Joseph A. Mitchell
Starring Buster Keaton
Music by Film re-scored:
Club Foot Orchestra
Cinematography Byron Houck
Elgin Lessley
Editing by Buster Keaton
Distributed by Metro Pictures Corporation
Release date(s) April 21, 1924
Running time 44 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

Sherlock, Jr. (1924) is an American comedy silent film starring and directed by Buster Keaton and written by Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez and Joseph A. Mitchell. It features Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton and Ward Crane.[1]

In 1991, Sherlock, Jr. was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," and on June 14, 2000 the American Film Institute, as part of its AFI 100 Years... series, ranked the film as #62 in the list of the funniest films of all time (AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs).



A movie projectionist and janitor (Buster Keaton) who is studying to become a detective is in love with a beautiful girl (Kathryn McGuire). On a date he presents her with chocolates and an engagement ring. However, there is another man who's also interested in his girl (Ward Crane).

One day he is accused of stealing his girlfriend's father's watch. He falls asleep on the job and dreams that he is a Sherlock Holmes-type detective, solving the case of who stole a valuable pearl necklace.



Keaton spent more time shooting this film than most of his others, due to the elaborate stunts and effects.

He was injured while filming one of the stunts. In the scene, Keaton hangs off a tube connected to a water tower used for replenishing the steam locomotive's water supply. The water poured out and knocked him on to the track, severely fracturing his neck. It wasn't until the 1930s that a doctor discovered the healed break during a routine examination. At that point, Buster recalled having agonizing headaches for a few days following the accident.

Special effects
Into the film: Keaton "walked" into the movie via the power of suggestion. The scene shifted back and forth several times from the projectionist's booth to the movie that was being shown. But for the last shift, instead of showing the movie, the camera this time showed a stage with live actors, designed to replicate the look of the movie. Therefore, Buster actually climbed onstage, but created the illusion of joining the movie.

Revealing the trick: During the scene following his "entry" into the movie he's projecting, the scenery around him changes abruptly several times. It wasn't until the 1940s that Keaton revealed that he and his cameraman had used surveyor's instruments to position him, and the camera, at exactly the correct distances and positions to provide the illusion of continuity.

Filming locations
The encounter with traffic cop was filmed on Larchmont Blvd. near Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.

Due to poor reception at previews, Keaton cut the film down a couple times. Thus, Sherlock, Jr. is shorter than his other features.

Critical reception

In its day, Sherlock, Jr. was not highly regarded. It was neither one of Keaton's bigger moneymakers, nor particularly popular with critics. Though Photoplay and The New York Times liked it, reviewers at Picture Play, Variety, New Republic and others were less positive. Over the years, however, the film has become recognized as a classic.

Recently, Time magazine named Sherlock, Jr. as one of the All-Time 100 Movies. They wrote, "The impeccable comedian directs himself in an impeccable silent comedy...Is this, as some critics have argued, an example of primitive American surrealism? Sure. But let's not get fancy about it. It is more significantly, a great example of American minimalism—simple objects and movement manipulated in casually complex ways to generate a steadily rising gale of laughter. The whole thing is only 45 minutes long, not a second of which is wasted. In an age when most comedies are all windup and no punch, this is the most treasurable of virtues."[2]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "[The film is] one of Buster's superior silent comedies that's noted for his usual deadpan humor, frolicsome slapstick, the number of very funny sight gags, the many innovative technical accomplishments and that he did his own stunts (including the dangerous one where he was hanging off of a ladder connected to a huge water basin as the water poured out and washed him onto the railroad track, fracturing his neck nearly to the point of breaking it. Keaton suffered from severe migraines for years after making this movie)."[3]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of modern critics gave the film a positive review, based on 14 reviews, marking the film as "Fresh."[4]


In 1991, Sherlock, Jr. was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

See also


  1. ^ Sherlock Jr. at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Time. Film review, 2005. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 20, 2006. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.
  4. ^ Sherlock, Jr. at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 21, 2008.

External links



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