Go West (1925) (1925)
December 12, 2022 2:04 PM - Subscribe

A New Yorker down on his luck sells his possessions and hops a train west. Arriving on a ranch, he attempts to work as a cowhand and befriends a lonely cow named Brown Eyes. When the rancher must deliver a herd of cattle to the Los Angeles stockyards, and takes Brown Eyes along with the rest, shenanigans ensue.

1925 silent film written, directed by and starring Buster Keaton, who also personally trained his cow co-star. Brown Eyes was apparently his favourite leading lady.

Animal cruelty CW for a brief scene of cattle being branded (no closeups). (Spoiler: the protagonist does manage to save his beloved cow from this fate).
posted by Pallas Athena (3 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't recall this one having many of the classic Buster Keaton stunts, etc, but they must have had their hands full with all the animals. I think I first watched this after hearing Bill Frisell's excellent alternate soundtrack.

Oh, look; the film's on YouTube.
posted by transient at 8:56 AM on December 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's mid-tier Keaton, but totally enjoyable. I remember enjoying the climactic cattle drive and the joke about the reward at the end. Brown Eyes forever.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

On my most recent rewatch of this movie, I was struck by what it seems to be saying about masculinity. Friendless, Keaton's character, does not and cannot exhibit the same version of masculinity the cowhands do, or even the shopkeeper at the beginning of the movie. The implication is that he's friendless and alone because he doesn't have that in his soul and can't perform it.

It seems to me that a crucial scene is when he's at the train station, sitting by the tracks, and finds a discarded lady's purse with sewing supplies, a powder puff and a miniature pearl-handled derringer pistol. Holding the pistol makes Friendless see the vision of Horace Greeley and decide to Go West, and he makes use of all these supplies throughout the rest of the film.

(In the shootout scene, the cowboys make it clear that the tiny, elegant pistol is the wrong sort of gun: too small, too pretty, too feminine)

But if Friendless/Keaton can't imitate the cowhands' masculinity, he also doesn't have their cruelty. He has empathy for the cows and treats them as equals, and his bond with Brown Eyes is his greatest strength. At the end, he doesn't drive the cows, he leads them-- first with Brown Eyes's help, and later by putting on a red devil outfit and getting the entire herd to chase him through the streets. And he saves the day and saves the ranch and gets the girl cow, but more than that, he finds a family. The last shot of the rancher's car driving off with his daughter in front and Friendless and Brown Eyes in the back seems to emphasise that he's no longer friendless and that his unconventional love has been accepted by this microcosm of society. The rancher's daughter doesn't even seem to mind being thrown over.

And there's no narrative of Friendless learning to "be a man"; he succeeds by being himself. He finds his place, but that place is found in the margins of "normative" culture and gender, not in it, and he succeeds once he *stops* seeking acceptance and just does things his way. I quite like that.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

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