Buster Keaton in Scarecrow (1920)

Film Review

THREE SHORT FILMS STARRING BUSTER KEATON

Release Dates: 1920-1921

Studio: Metro Pictures, First National Pictures

Director: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton

Starring: Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Roberts, Sybil Seely, Joe Keaton

ONE WEEK (1920)

Synopsis

Buster and his bride receive a home building kit for a wedding present. During their first week of marriage, they build the house. Comic difficulties occur, but the house is finished (somewhat lopsided). Then they learn that it is on the wrong lot, and they attempt to move it. However, the house gets stuck on the railroad tracks and is hit by a train. They leave the wreckage with a "For Sale" sign and the instructions.

SCARECROW (1920)

Synopsis

Buster and his friend live in a one-room house. They have various mechanical devices to make living easier. The tube turns into a sofa, the bed becomes a cabinet, the salt and pepper and other condiments are suspended over the table. They are both in love with the same farm girl. When Buster goes to visit her the family dog chases him. The friend dances with the girl. Her father chases Buster who masquerades as a scarecrow. There are various bits of business with the Buster-scarecrow kicking the father and the friend. In the end Buster flees with the girl on a horse, a motorcycle, and a boat. In the boat, they pick up a parson who marries them.

THE PLAYHOUSE (1921)

Synopsis

Buster dreams that he enters the theater where he is every member of the orchestra, the audience, and the minstrel act including the blackface endmen. When he wakes up, he goes to the theater where he is part of the crew. He meets identical sisters who befuddle him, one kisses him, one hits him. Various acts are appearing, including a trained ape. Buster lets the ape run away, and he replaces it. He is the leader of a troop of zouaves who march and run around. Finally, he marries the responsive twin and paints an X on her back.

Discussion

Keaton had spent several years appearing in Fatty Arbuckle comedies, and these three films are among his earliest independent shorts. One Week, which was his first short, is particularly funny. In Playhouse, Keaton displays his pantomiming skills, effectively portraying musicians, male and female playgoers, and an ape. The minstrel act demonstrates one type of comedy that does not go over in a silent film. The endmen tell several gags via subtitles, without the spoken inflection and emphasis, and the result is jokes that are flat and unfunny.