Seven Chances is a 1925 American comedy silent film directed by and starring Buster Keaton, based on a play written by Roi Cooper Megrue, produced in 1916 by David Belasco. Additional cast members include T. Roy Barnes,Snitz Edwards and Ruth Dwyer. Jean Arthur, a future star, has an uncredited supporting role. The film's opening scenes were shot in early Technicolor, and this rare color footage still survives on the Kino International special edition DVD print.
Jimmy Shannon (Buster Keaton) is the junior partner in the brokerage firm of Meekin and Shannon, which is on the brink of financial ruin. A lawyer (whom they dodged, mistakenly believing he was trying to add to their woes) finally manages to inform Jimmy of the terms of his grandfather's will. He will inherit seven million dollars if he is married by 7:00 p.m. on his 27th birthday, which happens to be that same day.
Shannon immediately seeks out his sweetheart, Mary Jones, who readily accepts his proposal. However, when he clumsily explains why they have to get married that day, she breaks up with him.
He returns to the country club to break the news to his partner and the lawyer. Though Jimmy's heart is set on Mary, Meekin persuades him to try proposing to other women to save them both from ruin or even possibly jail. He has Jimmy look in the club's dining room; Jimmy knows seven women there (the chances of the title). Each turns him down. In desperation, Jimmy asks any woman he comes across. Even the hat check girl rejects him. He finally finds one who agrees, but it turns out she is underage when her mother spots her and takes her away.
Meanwhile, Mary's mother persuades her to reconsider. She writes a note agreeing to marry Jimmy and sends the hired hand to deliver it.
Unaware of this, Meekin has his partner's predicament (and potential inheritance) printed in the newspaper, asking would-be brides to go to the Broad Street Church at 5 p.m. Hordes of veiled women descend on the place. When they spot Jimmy (who had fallen asleep on a pew), they begin to fight over him. Then the clergyman appears and announces he believes it all to be a practical joke. Infuriated, the women chase after Jimmy. While hiding, he gets Mary's note. He races to Mary's house, pursued by furious females. Along the way, he accidentally starts an avalanche, which drives away the mob.
When he gets to Mary's home, Meekin shows him his watch; he is minutes too late. Mary still wants to marry him, money or no, but he refuses to let her share his impending disgrace. Fortunately, when he leaves, he sees by the church clock that Meekin's watch is fast. He and Mary wed just in time.
- Buster Keaton as Jimmy Shannon
- T. Roy Barnes as His Partner [Billy Meekin]
- Snitz Edwards as His Lawyer
- Ruth Dwyer as His Girl [Mary Jones]
- Frances Raymond as Her Mother
- Erwin Connelly as The Clergyman
- Jules Cowles as The Hired Hand
- Jean Arthur as the receptionist at the country club (uncredited)
Keaton intended to finish with a fadeout of him still running from the mob of women, dissatisfied, but not having any better idea for an ending. However, during a preview, the audience laughed most loudly when Keaton's character accidentally dislodged a rock, which struck two others, sending them tumbling down after the hero. Keaton had 150 paper mache-and-chicken wire fakes made in various sizes up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter for what is now considered one of his most memorable sequences.
When released, Mordaunt Hall, the film critic for The New York Times, gave the film a mixed review, and wrote, "After viewing Buster Keaton's latest comedy, Seven Chances, one is justified in assuming; that there is a slump in the fun market...it took the combined efforts of three experienced gag men to turn the stage effort into screen material. The result inclines one's belief in the old adage concerning too many cooks, as although there are quite a number of good twists some of them have been produced in haste. The ideas did not have time to ripen and are therefore put before the audience in a rather sour state."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote, "A less ambitious but, nevertheless, hilarious Buster Keaton comedy. It's taken from the play by David Belasco and scripted by a team of writers. This minor film is based on a one-joke premise, but it has one of the greatest ever chase scenes. Keaton proves he's a master at building the comedy until it reaches its absolute breaking point."
Time Out London gave the film a positive review and wrote, "Less ambitious and less concerned with plastic values than the best of Keaton, this is nevertheless a dazzlingly balletic comedy in which Buster has a matter of hours to acquire the wife on which a seven million dollar inheritance depends...From this leisurely start, the film takes off into a fantastically elaborate, gloriously inventive chase sequence, in which Buster escapes the mob of pursuing harridans only to find an escalating avalanche of rocks taking over at his heels as he hurtles downhill. Added only after an initial preview, the rocks make for one of the great Keaton action gags."
The story was reworked several times, notably by the Three Stooges twice in the films Brideless Groom (also written by Clyde Bruckman) and Husbands Beware , inThe Suitor (Le Soupirant), a 1962 French comedy starring Pierre Etaix, and in The Bachelor, a 1999 film starring Chris O'Donnell and Renée Zellweger.
The International Buster Keaton Society recreated the Seven Chances "Bridal Run" in the streets of Muskegon, Michigan at their 2010 convention.