#132) One Week (1920)

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#132) One Week (1920)

OR “Keaton’s Curb Appeal”

Directed & Written by Eddie Cline and Buster Keaton

Class of 2008

The full short, along with an original score by The Lucky Dog Picturehouse and a live audience.

The Plot: A newly married couple (Buster Keaton & Sybil Seely) assembles their home from a build-it-yourself kit. After some tampering by the bride’s jilted ex, Hank (Actor Unknown), the completed house is filled with mistakes, from doors that lead nowhere to rooms with no ceiling. This arrangement is terrible for the newlyweds, but perfect for a young Buster Keaton showing off his comedic chops in his directorial debut.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises this film to the hilt, calling it “one of the greatest short comedies produced during the 1920s”. So…no pressure. There’s also a pretty thorough essay by film historian Daniel Eagan.

But Does It Really?: Yes, in the sense that any first step is important to document. Keaton’s just starting out with this film, but you can see how much of his comic genius was already on display from the get-go. Plus, this being a purely visual film, much of the humor still holds up today. Definitely worth a watch, even for you prudes who don’t want silent films.

Everybody Gets One: Not much is known about leading lady Sybil Seely, other than she did a few more films with Keaton before being replaced with Virginia Fox. Her film career ended in 1922 at the ripe old age of 20.

Wow, That’s Dated: This all takes place back when you could just buy someone a house for their wedding present. Also, are hobby-horses still a thing?

Other notes

  • “One Week” is noteworthy for being Keaton’s first film with his own production unit at Talmadge Studios after working under “Fatty” Arbuckle’s unit for three years. Let me look up what happened to Arbuckle after they…OH DEAR GOD!
  • This film is actually a parody of the 1919 educational short “Home Made”, right down to the “build-by-numbers” house design. Not sure if any print of “Home Made” still exists. Check your attics.
  • Who gets married on a Monday?
  • Handy Hank strikes me as the Biff Tannen in this situation.
  • Nice use of film reversal when Sybil throws Buster a hammer.
  • Surprise cameo by Captain Lou Albano as the piano mover.
  • Hank, Buster can’t hear your screaming. It’s a silent movie.
  • Keaton does the same thing I do when I ruin my carpet: just put a throw rug over it.
  • The scene of Sybil in the bathtub features what may be the best fourth wall joke in any movie ever.
  • Nope, definitely not a safety net under the ground that Keaton falls on. Why would you ever think such a thing?
  • Pretty sure the house collapses the exact same way the “Poltergeist” house did.

Legacy

  • Keaton would do the “house falling around a character” bit again (and to greater notoriety) in “Steamboat Bill Jr.
  • The dangers of expanding this joke to feature-length are on display in “The Money Pit”.
  • I’ll just assume this film inspired the Barenaked Ladies song.

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