My Kind of Theatre – The Play House (1921)

The Buster Keaton show… literally.  So this is about a stagehand (Keaton) who works at a theatre where things have the tendency to go wrong.  After a nap filled with surreal dreaming, he’s got a show to run.  I wouldn’t go so far to call this my favorite Keaton short, because that honor goes to the One Week, but this might just be my runner-up; I really do like it that much.  As you may have already picked up in these reviews, I am very admittedly a massive Buster Keaton fan.  For being made in 1921, this has some pretty spectacular special effects.  For the opening six minutes, it’s nothing but Keaton on the screen, playing every single part.  There are as many as nine Buster Keatons showcased at the same time.


Thusly answering my question: how can I have even more Keaton?

One small point against this is that there is a brief instance of blackface in this, and while it makes you cringe, he doesn’t do anything overly offensive, except for the make-up itself.  His physicality is, like always, really is the sell point; there is a scene where he is playing a monkey, and he really gets into it.  Seriously, it is something that probably inspired Andy Serkis for the Planet of the Apes series and King Kong, and I absolutely mean that.  I am so thankful that shorts were a much more popular of a medium back in the day, just because there are so many opportunities for me to see Keaton in something that I have never seen him in before.

The Play House (1921) ****1/2

– Critic for Hire


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