The Gold Ghost (1934) Poster

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7/10
A ghost town represents Buster's life in 1934, but he still finds traces of gold
imogensara_smith12 April 2007
In 1934, Buster Keaton was near rock bottom: he had been fired from MGM the year before, he had lost his wife, kids and home to divorce, and he was a severe alcoholic considered unemployable by most studios. Yet when he finally found work at Educational Pictures, a poverty row studio that employed many stars on the skids, he turned out some surprisingly decent work. Among the best of the short films he made there is the first, THE GOLD GHOST. Compared to his silent work, it looks cheap, tired and flat, but compared to the talkies he made at MGM it's a masterpiece. MGM shoehorned him into roles and comedies that had nothing to do with his own personality and style, turning him into a puppet (in his last MGM film, made when he was drowning in booze, he looks more like an animated corpse.) But the Educational films give him space to be himself, especially in long wordless sequences where he is alone on screen and the focus is entirely on his performance and his interactions with his environment. He looks worn out and much older than he had just two or three years before, but his movements are as subtle and expressive as ever, and his personality still charms.

Although Keaton took writing credit for only one of the Educational films (GRAND SLAM OPERA, by far the best of the series), director Charles Lamont, who was an old friend, confirmed that he contributed a great deal of material. This is evident from the fact that some gags are recycled from earlier films, while others bear his distinctive stamp. THE GOLD GHOST opens with Buster reprising his rich young twit character, dressed in top hat and tails. He overhears his girlfriend saying she will never marry him until he proves himself a man, so he gets in his car and drives away alone. Next time we see him he has run out of gas in Nevada and wanders into a ghost town, Vulture City, which was abandoned in 1898. Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs and falls apart at his touch. (This setting can't help but seem symbolic of his real-life situation.) At first stumbling around, encountering one mishap after another, Buster quickly adapts to his environment. He finds a sheriff's badge and guns, puts them on and adopts a hilarious parody of a cowboy walk—a delightful instance of his skill at mimicry. In the film's highlight he enters a saloon, winds up an ancient player piano that provides tinkly music, and has a vision of the past: he flirts with the ghost of a dance-hall girl and then shoots it out with some ghostly cowboys. The sequence is haunting and close to beautiful.

Keaton's writers could never resist bringing gangsters into his thirties films. Here a thug on the lam wanders into town, and the two become rather wary friends. Then some old miners discover gold and a new rush begins, and among the arrivals are Buster's girl and her father. The film's reasonably effective climax involves his efforts to prevent claim jumpers from stealing the mine belonging to his girlfriend's father, culminating in a brawl in which his ingenuity makes up for his lack of brawn. There are some bits of action here filmed as authentically as anything in his silent films, which is rare in these low-budget quickies. In the midst of the fight he bumps a slot machine and coins pour out into his porkpie hat, a nice image for the way he could still hit the comic jackpot.

Keaton had very clear ideas about how to adapt his film-making style for sound, and the Educational films demonstrate it well, giving a glimpse of what his sound features might have been like if he had had control over them. There's no unnecessary talking and no comic dialogue, and his character is particularly taciturn, but there's also a deliberate, sparing, atmospheric use of sound. Sound inescapably slows and weighs down the action, and Buster's deep raspy voice alters his otherworldly silent image. (Even in silence he no longer looks angelic; a scene of him undressed is quite alarming, since his once burnished physique is now frail and pasty.) But if he could make something this decent with a low budget while depressed and alcoholic, one can imagine how good his sound films could have been under ideal circumstances. THE GOLD GHOST is no work of art and no laugh riot, but for Keaton fans it's a pleasant surprise. And it's a telling reflection on Hollywood that he went from the richest, most prestigious studio in town to the cheapest and made better movies there.
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7/10
No gold, not much ghost
"The Gold Ghost" isn't the best of Keaton's sound-era shorts (that would be "Grand Slam Opera") but it's well above average for this grim period in his career.

Buster and a motley group of people end up out West in an old mining town. The gold mine has long since been tapped out, and the town is deserted ... a "ghost town" in the figurative sense, but also a ghost town literally when Buster has a brief encounter with the ghost of a saloon-girl. (This movie really has nothing to do with spooks.)

Buster appoints himself sheriff, but then he has to deal with a crook on the lam, played by Warren Hymer. Hymer is one of my favourite supporting actors. He had an extremely narrow range -- he nearly always played dim-witted crooks -- but he never failed to give a funny performance, and he's quite good in this film.

Watch out in "The Gold Ghost" for an actor named Joe Young, who looks and sounds exactly like ROBERT Young (of "Father Knows Best") hiding behind a moustache. Film historian David Shipman has written that this actor *is* Robert Young, using an alias. That's not true: the actor Joe Young in this film is Robert Young's lookalike brother, a movie-star wanna-be who had to grow a moustache in order to look different from his brother and have any sort of acting career at all. I'll give "The Gold Ghost" 7 out of 10 ... and two of those points are for Warren Hymer's deft performance.
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Back From the Dead
lowbrowstudios10 January 2011
In his first Educational comedy Buster Keaton touches and mannerisms are back in abundance after years of the creative straitjacket that was MGM. I find his Educational shorts liberating despite the low budgets that were imposed upon the brilliant comedian. After five years of being told what was funny by studio executives Keaton is back in charge and calling the shots as evident by the delightful first reel of THE GOLD GHOST, which is played basically silent. Buster roams around a deserted, ram-shackled ghost town where chairs and tables collapse, doors fall off their hinges and wooden walkways disintegrate when used. Warren Hymer eventually turns up so Buster has someone to play cards with in a rising cloud of dust.

None of these gags are truly ingenious on their own but they are all engaging as a whole as Keaton gets his feet wet returning to the two reel format that he began his film career in supporting Roscoe Arbuckle. Who else but Keaton would throw a deck of cards at a gang of assailants and then stand and watch as the cards scattered with the wind?

It's nice to have Buster back.
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6/10
Not brilliant but pleasant...
MartinHafer28 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you are looking for the genius and style of Buster Keaton's silent films, then you probably will be more disappointed in this short from Educational Films (a company, despite its name, that made comedies). This is because the film lacks the physicality of Keaton's older films--the flips, pratfalls and the like. However, if you can repress the part of the brain that expects that, then this film is actually pretty pleasant. Plus, it was a HUGE improvement over the types of films he'd just finished making for MGM--as pairing him and his sweet style with Jimmy Durante was simply insane!

The film begins with Buster's girl and father discussing her marriage to him. THey both agree that Buster hasn't proved himself and probably would be a disaster as a husband. So, to prove them wrong, he travels out West to show them he can be a success. However, the restaurant he bought sight unseen turns out to be in a ghost town. BUT, soon after, the town is rediscovered--as gold is found in the nearby mines. Now, the place is filled with folks and Buster finds himself the sheriff. The problem is, the bad guys insist he throw in his lot with them...or else.

While I don't recall any big laughs in this one, the story is nice and it's interesting to see Keaton in a short that is more plot-driven than usual. Not great but worth seeing.
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7/10
Buster strikes gold.....well nearly
Steamcarrot4 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In this Educational sound short from the thirties, Buster plays another variation of his dim but resourceful rich kids, seen in films like The Navigator and Battling Butler. Although this never even approaches the greatness of his earlier work, it is however a charming little film with a great sense of fun. Buster, being spurned by the girl he wants to marry, heads off in his car and keeps going until he runs out of petrol. He ends up in an old gold prospector village that has been deserted and makes himself sheriff (well, he puts on the badge and gun). He is not alone for long though as a gangster on the run crashes his plane in the town and soon strikes up a friendship of sorts with Buster. However, their peace is soon shattered by gold being discovered again and before long the town is booming again. Of course the girl shows up as the mine is owned by her father and Buster in his sheriff's role has to save the day etc etc.

The Gold Ghost has some good bits of business and some fitfully funny scenes but it's the setting that helps make it a winner. Also there are small hints of the Buster that went before as the fantasy playing of Buster being the sheriff gives way to his playing the role for real and there are several surreal touches. One of the best Buster talkies.
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5/10
Buster as acting sheriff of a reawakening ghost town : a largely silent talkie
weezeralfalfa12 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Mostly for Buster Keaton aficionados. His first picture for poverty row Educational Pictures, after his hated MGM period.. Thus, like his character in the film, he feels like he has a chance to start over. Keaton largely returns to his silent film character, being by himself in a Nevada ghost town for most of the first half of this 20 min. short. For a brief moment, he has ghostly images, presumably of past inhabitants, to interact a bit with. He doesn't seem to be afraid of them. In fact, he shoots the several ghosts who draw their guns on him, and they disappear. The ghost of a saloon girl also appears after he starts the player piano....... Soon after this, Buster, as Wally, encounters a real man who seems lost. It's derby-wearing Bugs Kelly(Warren Hymer). Unlike Wally, who prefers to be alone at present, Bugs likes the bustle of city life.(So what's he doing here?) As Wally discovered, it's not a good idea to trust any of the furniture or doors. They may fall apart if you try to interact with them. They've been setting unattended since 1890. The interiors are covered by a thick layer of dust, as brought home in the card game played by the 2 men, on a table........ . Eventually, 2 old sourdoughs arrive in the street and say they'd better hurray and register their claim for their gold strike. However, they don't meet Wally and Bugs, but later there is a headline that there's a gold strike near Vulture City(this ghost town)......... Soon, hoards of autos and people descend on their once peaceful town. As the self-appointed sheriff of this town, Wally suddenly is much in demand. Incredibly, even his ex-girlfriend(Dorothy Dix, as Gloria) and her father, from Boston, arrive. Seems he owns the nearby Marietta gold mine(What this has to do with the present gold strike isn't clear). Gloria rejected him as husband material, because he was too wimpy. Perhaps, in this situation , he can prove that he can take charge of a crisis situation. Wally discovers that gangsters hope to steal the Marietta from Gloria's father. Wally refuses to 'play ball' with them. Hence, when he steps out of the saloon, several men begin firing at him, and he at them. Incredibly, no one is hurt. Must be using blanks. He returns to the saloon, and soon 3 men from outside jump him. He holds them off until Bugs decides to crown them with a mallet he found. Then, a bigger gang attacks him in the saloon. He crawls out from the bottom of the pile, while the others hit each other. Then, he rolls a number of small barrels at them, like bowling balls, that trip them up. He falls over one barrel, and hits the arm of a shot machine, collecting a pile of coins in his hat. Meanwhile, Bugs again beans the men with his mallet. ........Gloria shows up, and he tells her that the Marietta is safe from thieves. The film ends too quickly, as Gloria doesn't get a chance to exclaim "My Hero", and kiss him.........You may not think any parts are terribly funny, but parts are reasonably amusing........See it at YouTube.
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5/10
If he can't break it, it hasn't been invented yet!
mark.waltz27 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The great stone face went from a series of amusing second rate comedy features at MGM to a series of flawed but amusing comedy shorts at a poverty tow studio known as Educational. In this one, he's a clumsy rich guy who "vants to be alone", and ends up in a ghost town where a ghostly gunfight takes place every night. There's the typical Keaton slapstick, utilizing every day props in ingenious ways. Among the non-dead humans he encounters is wannabe miner Warren Hymee who helps him strike gold as he pursues his unsuccessful desire to be alone. Dorothy Dix plays the girlfriend he's running away from. Keaton brings this up a notch, but other than him, there's not much else to recommend.
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7/10
Both Gold and Ghost
frankebe11 July 2010
Well, maybe Fool's Gold... No it's not "vintage" Keaton, but it's pretty dang good! Educational Pictures gets slammed all the time for being so low-budget, but here is a whole broken-down frontier's town for Buster to play with, complete with ghosts, mobsters, and a dang hell of a lot of extras! It's a quickie-film, as if Buster were trying out sound for the first time to see what he could do, and on a very smallish experimental level I think it works pretty good. Of the entire 16 Educational shorts he made, my vote for best of the bunch is "The Chemist". ("Grand Slam" has been over-rated for years, and doesn't come close, in my opinion.) Buy the set from Kino and check these out for yourself!
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6/10
A Good Short
boblipton13 November 2006
Keaton's first screen work after his career collapsed at MGM due to drunkenness, the breakup of his marriage and frustration is a pleasant little piece. True, it lacks the absurdity bordering on surrealism of his great silent shorts, but it does have Keaton at work in a sound film doing what he had always thought was his best mode of operation: interpolating his silent stuntwork in a long sequence in which the only 'ghosts' appear: a dance hall girl and some ghostly bandits, whom he kills -- although they may only exist in his imagination. The sequence includes some fine pratfalls. Not a great work by any means, it is certainly worthwhile for anyone who loves Keaton's work, as do I.
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The First Keaton-Educational
Michael_Elliott1 May 2011
Gold Ghost, The (1934)

** (out of 4)

Wally (Buster Keaton) is expected to marry Gloria (Dorothy Dix) but she finds him to be a wimp and refuses his hand. Wally, depressed, decides to drive out West where he ends up in a ghost town in Nevada where he pretends to be the sheriff but ends up with the job just in time as a gangster comes to visit as well as some looking for gold. After Keaton's contract was destroyed by MGM he moved over to Educational Pictures and this was the first film he made for the ultra low-budget studio. I've heard many reviewers say this was the best of the group and if that's true then I'm really not looking forward to the future films. As many other reviewers have stated, the first portion of this movie features a long silent sequence and many fans seem to feel this was a great return for Keaton. However, in my opinion, just because you make something silent doesn't mean that the quality of the work is any higher. I really thought many of the jokes fell flat on their face simply because of how straight many of them were. The majority of the silent segment features Keaton falling over things. He goes to sit in a chair but it breaks and he falls. Keaton goes to lean against a table but it collapses and he falls. He puts his foot on a bar and, you guessed it, he falls. There are a couple funny gags later on in the film including the best one where Keaton is washing his clothes and is somewhat nude when all these cars start pulling up and he must frantically run off. Another nice gag is when he and the gangster are playing cards on a desk full of dust that goes wild each time one of them moves. THE GOLD GHOST isn't a horrible film because it did at least keep me mildly entertained but at the same time there simply weren't enough laughs to call it a winner.
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