You have to love a blogathon that is billed as "The First Annual", especially when the subject is Buster Keaton and the host is Silent-Ology! All the fun can be found by clicking here.
It ain't exactly the Montagues and the Capulets, but The Boy and The Girl in the 1920s romantic-comedy short, Neighbors, certainly have their problems. And those troubles are told with a series of breathtaking gags that leave audiences screaming with laughter. It was that way when I enjoyed a big screen triple bill of Neighbors, The Balloonatic and Sherlock Jr. a few years ago. While I enjoy watching a Keaton movie in the comfort of my own home, nothing tops the camaraderie of laughing with crowd of Buster fans, the new and the old.
Edward F. Cline
(1891 - 1961)
Neighbors was written and directed by Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline. The pair of comic geniuses collaborated on 19 shorts in the years between 1920 and 1923. They were a perfect match. Eddie, the former keystone cope and gag man, is responsible for lots of laughs through his work with Mack Sennett through to W.C. Fields.
Buster Keaton as The Boy
The Flower of Love could find no more romantic spot in which to blossom than in this poet's Dream Garden.
- title card
The tenement section of a big city is home to The Boy who pines for The Girl on the other side of the fence. Her Father, played by big Joe Roberts, Buster's perfect foil in 16 movies, is the blustery type. He doesn't approve of the romance and tosses daughters and suitors about like so much confetti. His Father, played by Joe Keaton is the combative type who fights as he breathes. The lengths to which The Boy goes to reach his girl using the fence between the houses, the clothes lines and telephone wires is mind-boggling. When you watch someone in a movie today sliding down the wires, bouncing up to third story windows or balancing on a beam, you immediately think CGI. In Neighbors it's all Buster!
Virginia Fox as The Girl
We have a black-face gag which at first was greeted with uncomfortable twitters from the audience, but eventually the crowd just relaxed and went with it. Stuck upside down in the mud The Boy accosts a cop, played by Eddie Cline, who starts looking for the culprit with the black face. Having washed his face, The Boy is ignored while the cop tries to take in a black man who was passing by. The innocent bystander escapes and The Boy has now had a bucket of tar dropped on his head. Aha! He's spotted by the cop, but The Boy manages to wipe half his face, looking like Frank Gorshin or Lou Antonio in Star Trek: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. The Boy confuses the heck out of the cop and makes good his escape. Eventually though, one stunt too many sends The Boy right into the back of a Paddy Wagon.
Joe Keaton, Buster Keaton, Jack Duffy, Virginia Fox, Joe Roberts
After going to court to end their troubles, they have a wedding to start more.
- title card
In court, the Judge, played by Jack Duffy, an actor and make-up man who specialized in playing old duffers, agrees to marry The Girl to The Boy in hopes of calming down these trouble-making feuding families. The Girl is resplendent in her wedding gown. The Boy, in a borrowed suit of the wrong size, has trouble keeping his pants up. The dining room table displays the wedding gifts, prominent among them a copy of World Heavyweight Champion Jim Corbett's "How to Box". Cracks me up!
Buster and the Flying Escalantes do their stuff!
The wedding has many surprises, and ups and downs, but Her Father calls the whole thing off when he sees the cheap Woolworth's ring that is being offered. The Girl is dragged back to the other side of the fence. The Boy and his friends (brothers?) played by the circus act The Flying Escalantes thrill with their acrobatic feats bringing true hearts together.
Neighbors may be classified a short, but in laughs and thrills it is epic.