It was in 1925 when Buster Keaton found himself another leading lady to be in his newest feature film Go West. With big brown eyes, dark eyelashes, golden-red hair, a sweet demeanor, wet nose, four legs, and a tail, she was the perfect pick. Confused? Meet Brown Eyes, the lovable Jersey cow!
While this film includes a variety of animals you might find on a ranch (cattle, horses, herding dogs, a mule, chickens, and the like), the story focuses more on the friendship between Friendless (Keaton) and Brown Eyes. After traveling from Indiana to the bustling streets of New York City in a fruitless search for employment, Friendless finally decides to head out west and ultimately ends up at the Diamond Bar Ranch, where he becomes a cowhand. His name is a definite euonym for his character, as we see the constant rejection he faces wherever he goes. Brown Eyes is also outcasted from the herd of baldfaced cattle, who simply want nothing to do with her.
When Brown Eyes first crosses paths with Friendless, she is seen limping. He goes over to help get a rock out of her hoof, and she later saves him from a charging bull. In true Keaton fashion, he tips his hat to her. Brown Eyes then follows him around, and licks his hand in friendship. The two quickly form a close bond together and become inseparable. Friendless goes so far as to protect her from predators in the night, straps on a pair of antlers for her to fend herself with, and races against time to save his only friend from an awful fate.
In his autobiography, Keaton recalls some of his earliest (and most adorable) moments with Brown Eyes before production started:
“I never had a more affectionate pet or a more obedient one. After a while I was able to walk her through doors, in and out of sets, even past bright lights. The only difficulty we had was when I sat down and she tried to climb into my lap.” (142)
Location shooting apparently took place near Kingman, Arizona. The extreme summer weather proved to be an obstacle, and ice had to be packed in with the cameras in order to avoid melted film emulsion. It was also discovered that Miss Brown Eyes went into heat during production, and filming had to be put on hold for about ten days.
Although this film is considered to be one of Buster Keaton’s quirkier and lesser-known works, the onscreen and offscreen companionship of Keaton and Brown Eyes is just too precious to overlook. I mean, he even hosted an afternoon tea party for her and some close animal friends. Talk about cuteness overload.
Finally, there’s even sheet music dedicated to the comedian and his bovine friend, which I would love to try and find at an antique mall someday.