Joe Keaton

Neighbors (1920, Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton)

I’m not sure what the best thing is about Neighbors. There’s the comic pacing, there’s the comic acrobatics, there’s the story, there’s the acting. Co-directors Keaton and Cline quickly introduce this fantastic setup–Romeo and Juliet across a fence in an alley and then immediately get into two very complicated Keaton-fueled acrobatic mastery. It segues into a mistaken identity chase sequence, then resolves in a melodramatic plot development giving seven cast members (sadly, the bride and groom’s mothers are uncredited) each something to do, before wrapping up in another acrobatic chase sequence.

It’s the perfect slapstick comedy, but it’s also a great romantic comedy, a great comedy of errors. All in seventeen or so minutes. Keaton and Cline perfectly time every shot, every scene.

Neighbors is a perfect seventeen minutes of film. Keaton and Cline do a fantastic, masterful and totally understated job with the film. It’s magnificent.

3/3Highly Recommended


Directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton; screenplay by Cline and Keaton, based on a story by Keaton; director of photography, Elgin Lessley; produced by Joseph M. Schenck; released by Metro Pictures Corporation.

Starring Buster Keaton (The Boy), Virginia Fox (The Girl), Joe Roberts (Her Father), Joe Keaton (His Father), Edward F. Cline (The Cop) and Jack Duffy (The Judge).

The Scarecrow (1920, Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton)

The Scarecrow opens with a lengthy practical effects sequence. Buster Keaton and Joe Roberts are roommates and they have an elaborately designed “concise” home. It’s like IKEA’s dream, only with manually pulled ropes instead of some kind of remote control.

(There’s also a gag Chaplin had, a year later, in The Kid).

Turns out the roommates are in love with the same girl (Sybil Seeley, who’s appealing with nothing to do). Somehow, this love triangle results in Keaton getting chased by Seeley’s possibly rabid dog while both he and Roberts run afoul of her father (played by Joe Keaton).

The automated home alone would be enough of a gag for an entire short, the dog chase would be enough for an entire short, but then directors Keaton and Cline turn it all into a runaway romance and chase picture. The Scarecrow’s a breathtaking achievement of technique, practically and narratively.

3/3Highly Recommended


Written and directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton; director of photography, Elgin Lesley; released by Metro Pictures Corporation.

Starring Buster Keaton (Farmhand), Joe Roberts (Farmhand), Sybil Seely (Farmer’s Daughter) and Joe Keaton (Farmer).

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