Thursday, February 9, 2023

Buster Keaton's MAROONED IN MOJAVE (1937)

In 1937, after Educational Pictures went bankrupt and Buster Keaton stopped producing films with the studio, the comedian had not yet been offered the role of gagman at MGM. He was in between movie projects and worked alongside Lew Lipton (of MGM) to produce a three-act stage play titled Marooned in Mojave. The stage play never went into production that year, never made into a motion-picture, either. But it appears the play was staged in April of 1946 under a different title, Lambs will Gamble. The play then was announced as written by Lew Lipton (he worked with Buster on Cameraman) and Ralph Murphy, based on Keaton's idea about a flood that hits a Palm Springs joint. 

Eleanor Keaton told about this in an interview with Alan Hoffman: “The Dunes must have been three or four hundred feet, at least, back in a grove of trees off a two-lane blacktop highway, fifteen miles from anything,” said Eleanor. “And it probably had a blacktop driveway going in, but that’s about as close as you’d get to civilization. They had their own wells, they had electric wires coming in from heaven knows where, and Buster was there in a heavy rain one time where they had trouble getting in or out of the club. And he said, ‘What would happen if it got a little worse?’ And he just went from there.”

Buster, according to Eleanor, did not participate in the production, and his original play was significantly rewritten: “The whole play took place within the dance floor, tables around the dance floor, the kitchen, the gambling room and the bar. They were marooned with flash floods, and they slept on the crap tables with sheets and napkins for blankets and pillows and all. It was written as a comedy, and a very good, funny comedy. Buster wasn’t involved with it until they were within three or four days of opening and knew they had a total bomb on their hands.” 

The play really wasn't a success, as you can get from the review. It started on April 29 and closed on May 11, and the participants suffered huge losses. 

Special thanks to historian Olga Egorova, an authority on Buster Keaton, for helping provide information regarding this recently-found archival discovery.

For fans and historians of Buster Keaton, here is a copy of that stage play in PDF.

Link for download: