Goodnight, Nurse! (1918)


  • directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
  • starring Roscoe Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St. John, Alice Lake
  • Roscoe’s wife wants him committed to the No Hope Sanitarium for a cure from drink.

Another film grouping Arbuckle, Keaton, and St. John, Goodnight, Nurse! begins with Fatty trying to light a cigarette in a downpour before the wind kicks up and a few other characters—a policeman and two panhandling musicians–are literally blown into the scene. He then retreats to his home with the couple and there he finds a cranky wife who has just read of a just-discovered cure for alcoholism in the newspaper.

The next day his fed-up wife drags him to the No Hope Sanitarium, a place where he meets the head doctor played by Buster Keaton. After some hijinks and a few escape attempts, Arbuckle finally flees in the end and is chased by a Keaton-led pack of hospital staff. The runners unintentionally get mixed up in an actual race, which was funny, and Arbuckle wins. A great ending would have been him using his winnings to go buy a drink, but instead he was brought back to No Hope. The end.

The jokes and choreography weren’t as sharp here as they were in The Cook, but the film is interesting considering Arbuckle’s personal history with alcohol and substance abuse. In the performances of Arbuckle, Keaton, and Chaplin that I’ve seen so far, there is at times sentimentality present, mostly with Chaplin in a universal sense, and personal experiences obviously inform the creation of the characters they created, but rarely in this era of comedy do a performer’s personal matters and chief onscreen persona converge. Here, there was obviously a very real and raw truth under the surface, but the treatment of the performer’s dark history could not have gotten a lighter treatment than it did.

I’m probably reading too much into the alcoholism subplot of Goodnight, Nurse!, but I’m forced to because as I said the comedy didn’t work as well as I’m used to it working with these guys.


About classixquest
all the things I should have seen

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