The Cameraman

Release date: September 22, 1928
Length: Eight reels
A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Production
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Edward M. Sedgwick
Script: Richard Schayer
Story: Clyde Bruckman and Lew Lipton
Photography: Elgin Lessley and Reggie Lanning
Technical Director: Fred Gabourie
Editors: Hugh Wynn and Basil Wrangell
Costumes: David Cox

Buster Keaton: Luke Shannon
Marceline Day: Sally Richards
Harold Goodwin: Harold Stagg
Harold Gribbon: Officer Henessey
Sidney Bracey: Edward J, Blake, the Editor
William Irving: A Photographer
Edward Brophy: Man in the Dressing Room
Vernon Dent: Man in a Tight Bathing Suit
Dick Alexander: Big Sea Lion
Ray Cooke: Office Worker
Josephine: The Monkey

Luke Shannon is a struggling tin-type photographer. He takes one of Sally Richards, a pretty newsreel office secretary, after a parade she’s helping to cover. Then he follows her back to the office. He’s so smitten with her that, even though another cameraman, Harold, is interested in her, he decides to become a newsreel cameraman too. He rushes out and trades his tin-type camera (and his entire bank account) for a rickety motion picture camera. When he returns, the boss won’t hire him but Sally tells him that they’ll buy any good film and sends him to shoot a warehouse fire. He tries to find it by hopping onto a speeding fire truck, but he only gets a short ride back to the fire station.

Next he visits Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, the team is in St. Louis, so he pretends to play ball for his own amusement. Then he visits the office to screen the footage he’s taken. It’s a disaster: superimposed images and reversed film. Sally gives him some advice, and he asks her out on a date. She says she might already have one, but she’ll call him.

The next morning, at the peep of dawn, he’s dressed and waiting. After a false alarm, she calls. He only needs to hear “my dates off” to race to her place before she’s able to put down the phone. After a terrifying interlude with Sally’s boarding housemates, she rescues him and they set off on a bus so crowded that he must ride on the outside wheel well to be next to her. They arrive at the municipal swimming pool and separate to change. He ends up sharing a tiny cubical with a large man, and he emerges in the other guy’s vast suit. Sally’s suit fits fine, and other men try to crowd him out. After a fancy dive into the pool robs him of his clothing, he must steal a pair of drawers to get out with his modesty intact. The homeward bus is full, but Harold happens by in his car. Luke gets stuck in the rumble seat and it starts to rain. At the trip’s end, she kisses a sodden Luke which redeems the whole wretched date.

On Monday morning, Luke waits at the office while its still being cleaned. The boss arrives and tells him to beat it, but Sally passes on a tip that trouble is brewing at the Chinese celebration. After accidentally acquiring a monkey, he goes to Chinatown and shoots the Tong War that erupts. However, back at the office he discovers that the film broke before he shot a frame. He innocently rats on Sally, then, feeling guilty, promises never to bother them again.

He and the monkey are still trying on Tuesday, shooting the Westport Yacht Regatta. He discovers the film box with the Tong War footage. Sally and Harold zip past him in a motor boat, which turns too sharply, throwing them overboard. Luke rescues the unconscious Sally, but while he’s at the pharmacy, Harold takes the credit.

By Wednesday he’s back to taking tin-types. He’d dropped off his Tong War material and the boss screens it. It’s the best camera work he’s seen in years. It’s followed by footage shot by the monkey of Luke saving Sally. She runs out and finds him. Among ticker tape for Charles Lindbergh, they make their triumphal way back to the office. — Lisle Foote