It’s true love if you can paint it on a house. Image: Pinterest

The 1920 comedy, One Week, stars Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely as a freshly-married couple who build a Do-It-Yourself prefabricated house.

The couple receive the house as a wedding gift, and it arrives in carefully-marked wooden crates, along with assembly instructions. A person can put the thing together in a week!

However! Seely’s jilted-and-jealous ex-boyfriend re-labels the crates, which knocks the assembly instructions Out of Whack.

The couple plows ahead with construction anyway, even though they suspect something Ain’t Right, and the house – such as it is – is completed in three days.

But that’s just the start. To round out their Week One of married life, there’s also bad weather, confusion about an address, and, finally, the need to move the house Across Railroad Tracks.

Plus a charming romance, of course.

That’s a lot to pack into a 25-minute film, isn’t it? With such a short runtime, a film has to stay On Target. It can’t use any “filler,” as movies today are wont to do.

There isn’t even much of a plot. It has a simple premise with multiple sight gags, and yet it’s brilliant.

In our opinion, One Week was the film that firmly established the Buster Keaton character that made him a Legend.

Our dream house. Image: cinemas21us

Although Keaton had been working in Hollywood since 1917, One Week was a career benchmark in two ways: (1) It was the first film in which he starred without comedic partner (and friend) Roscoe Arbuckle; and (2) It was his first release as an independent filmmaker.

He would also present the parameters of his filmmaking, as in: There are no parameters.

His character would be stoic – “The Great Stone Face”, they called him – and he would be industrious and dogged, and wouldn’t give up, even if everything in the film Conspired against him.

He would cast supersized adversaries who towered above him, which in itself was a funny gag, but also made his eventual victories even greater.

The movies are set in America and Keaton portrays an Average Joe, both of which make him instantly sympathetic. He pokes fun at ordinary situations, but not ordinary people.

Yet the films show us there’s nothing ordinary about Buster Keaton. He was nothing short of a genius in Physics.


This never gets old. Image: Pinterest

This falling-wall gag was used in a previous film with pal Arbuckle, and would be used at least twice more in future Keaton films.

And there’s this:

Which car to take? Image:

But get this:

A homeowner’s nightmare. Image: Coluor Vows

Keaton had the couple’s home constructed on a turntable to create the effects of a severe windstorm. Look at the way he clings to the house, as though there’s a chance of restraining it.

We won’t show you anymore clips. To do so would ruin your future enjoyment of the film, if you haven’t already seen it.

One Week was one of highest-grossing films of 1920. According to Wikipedia, it was a parody of an educational film, Home Made (1919), that promoted prefabricated housing.

Keaton was seriously injured performing a stunt filming One Week, but, as would prove to be the case with Keaton’s career, it didn’t put a crimp in the production schedule. This would not be the last time he would be injured doing stunts; indeed it’s astonishing he wasn’t injured more often.

His true genius, we think, is his relatability. Keaton never lords his abilities over the audience, even though we’re ever conscious his dexterity and resourcefulness far outweigh our own.

It’s why audiences – then and now – admire Buster Keaton. One Week is a coming of age, of sorts, of both the character and the filmmaker.

This is our contribution to THE 9th ANNUAL BUSTER KEATON BLOGATHON hosted by Silent-ology.

One Week: starring Buster Keaton, Sybil Seely, Joe Roberts. Written and directed by Edward F. Cline & Buster Keaton. Joseph M. Schenck Productions, 1920, B&W, 25 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

28 Comment on “The Coming of Age of Buster Keaton

  1. Pingback: The Ninth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon | Silent-ology

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