Continuing with this series of 47 moments in film that I love (Why 47?), today we hit #17, with possibly the oldest movie that will show up on this list (although maybe not, we’ll just see).
Seven Chances (1925)
Directed by: Buster Keaton
James Shannon desperately searches for someone who will marry him that afternoon in order that he may gain an inheritance that will save him from financial ruin!
Jimmy Shannon must find a woman–any woman–to marry him by that day, or he will lose an inheritance that will change everything for him and his business partner. His heart is set on his girlfriend Mary, but a misunderstanding leads her to reject him. His business partner puts an add in the paper, looking for a woman who wants to marry a soon-to-be millionaire. Literally hundreds of women, if not thousands, show up. Only then does Jimmy find out that Mary wants to marry him after all, so now Jimmy must get away from all these wanna-be-brides, and meet Mary at the church before the 7:00 pm deadline…
Having slipped out of the church where all the brides were, Jimmy thinks he’s gotten away the contenders for his hand. With only 45 minutes to go, and failing to hail a street car, Jimmy begins to purposely stride down the street…not knowing that an ever growing crowd of brides have seen him and are following him. Soon it’s literally hundreds of woman, all wearing some manner of bridal veil, and all angry, who are walking after him.
The camera tracks from a high position, to highlight the size of the crowd behind him, a crowd that stretches a good city block, with more disgruntled woman being added every second. After quite a long time, Jimmy finally realizes what is going on. His walk turns into a run, and soon a stampede of jilted brides goes tearing down the street after him…
Buster Keaton was a master of both comic timing and physical humor, both as an actor and a director. He holds on the image of Jimmy unaware (thanks really to the magic of silent film) of the huge throng of people following him, for just long enough that when he finally catches on, the result is comedy gold. The timing is brilliant, and the actual shot of the oblivious Jimmy being pursued by a giant crowd of brides is one of the most enduring images that Keaton ever put on film.
The women become even more dangerous and destructive than we could have guessed, terrorizing everyone who gets in their way. Jimmy’s efforts to escape them make up pretty much the third act of the movie.
There’s at least one more moment from this sequence that I want to highlight, maybe next time.