We’ve seen a derivative of this story many times before, but thanks to Buster Keaton, Seven Chances has a lot of marvelous comedic moments created by his wonderful physical ability.
The story goes something like this: Boy meets girl and he loves her but never makes his move. Now he has the chance at $7 million if he gets married before his 27th birthday. But that’s today so all he has to do is marry his sweetheart Mary. It sounds so easy until he complicates the whole situation with muddled words and misunderstandings.
Now he only has a matter of time to find another bride. His law partner puts down a line of candidates, and he strikes out each time earning a face full of laughs in reply. Even the secretary and coat attendant turn him down his pitiful plea.
He drives off desperate for a bride and his buddies put an ad in the paper sure to grab him a wife. Jimmy waits patiently at the church, but there’s a problem. Hundreds of women show up and soon turn into a mob bent on clobbering him for making fools of them.
Then and there begins one of the grandest, most epic, and extraordinary chase scenes of all time. Forget Bullitt or The French Connection, this is the seminal chase scene. It’s mind boggling to think how many extras they used and all dressed in drag no less. It is difficult not to marvel at Keaton’s physical prowess because that is where he tops Chaplin. He’s fantastic at scampering about, sliding around, and making pitfalls in general, given the right environment. Soon the world becomes his playground with coattails flying and droves of angry women hot on his heels.
He hitches a ride on the spare tire of a car, dangles from a crane, does frantic Australian crawl across a pond, rides a falling tree, and of course, dodges an avalanche of fake-looking boulders. All I can say is Keaton could have been a professional dodgeball player, but we can be thankful he stayed with film. He was pretty decent at comedy too.
Needless to say, Jimmy gets back in the nick of time, or did he? Of course, he did! It seems like he’s the only one who cannot plant a kiss on the bride. At least he has one now, and Mary is far more important than the money. That’s all that really matters.
Chaplin was great because his Tramp had so much expression. The Great Stone Face was great for the exact opposite reason. He lacked it. His nervous fidgeting or obvious dismay in all situations heightens the comedy making the laughs even more hilarious.
His two buddies are a comical pair in their own right with their differing heights and good-natured blunders. They get caught up in Jimmy’s unfortunate predicament and get knocked about a bit as well.
Keaton may have had greater films, but in his golden age during the 1920s, he could hardly do any wrong. Seven Chance has one of the greatest sustained comedy sequences of any of his films and it certainly does showcase his skills. He gave Chaplin a run for his money, literally.