Sherlock, Jr. at Real Art Ways

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Sherlock, Jr.

This 1924 silent classic is not as well known as it should be. Keaton plays a young man who works as a projectionist and janitor in the local movie theater. (He’s also reading a book about how to become a detective.)

Wrongly accused of theft — his romantic rival stole a pocket watch from his girlfriend’s house and pawned it, then framed Keaton so her father sends him away in disgrace — he returns to his job and falls asleep during a screening. He dreams of stepping into the movie and becoming a great detective on the trail of stolen pearls.

Not only do all the other real people in his life turn up in the film, but he performs feats of detection and athletic skill: the film concludes with a thrilling chase in which Keaton rides a motorcycle’s handlebars, not knowing the driver has fallen off, and some split-second stunts. Both the stunts and the special effects were decades ahead of their time.