Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker's Life by James Curtis:
One of the strongest responses to Go West came from the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Carl Sandburg, who was moonlighting as movie critic for the Chicago Daily News. “It seems rather silly to say that any screen comedy will leave unforgettable impressions on you,” Sandburg wrote, “but that seems exactly what Buster Keaton’s Go West is likely to do at McVickers Theater this week. Although the theater at times is explosive with hearty guffaws, Go West may not be the funniest thing that sour-faced Buster has ever done, but it is by far the most enjoyable bit of humor this writer has seen from the Keaton fun factory. This comedian comes close to the Chaplinesque in his serious comedy. Buster is one of the few comedians of the screen at whom you can laugh without feeling a bit ridiculous yourself.”
Keaton always struggled with Go West, and in later years tended to distance himself from it. “Some parts I like,” he allowed in 1958, “but as a picture, in general, I didn’t care for it.” He always looked upon the roundup with disappointment, but the picture may also have struck too personal a note with him, something very private in his character that he didn’t want revealed. In the end, Go West played to $50,300 during an off week on Broadway, a bit less than Seven Chances. In comparison, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman was in its seventh week at the much smaller Colony, where it took in $30,500 and looked certain to last a full ten weeks. Where Keaton represented an abstraction to American audiences, Lloyd was the real deal, an energetic boy from the Midwest always eager to make good. However popular Chaplin and Keaton were internationally, it was Lloyd who topped the box office polls in the United States and who would remain a big star until talkies and middle age took their inevitable toll.