The Play House

Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline, USA, 1921o


As a stagehand in a vaudeville theatre, Buster dreams of a performance in which he plays all the numbers and is also his own orchestra and audience. After the rude awakening in the coulisse, the game of doubles and deceptions continues with a pair of twins, two doors and mirrors until the worker is really forced onto the stage because the star of a chimpanzee act has escaped. The ongoing troubleshooting culminates in the rescue of a drowning underwater acrobat.

Keaton's ironic homage to the world of vaudeville theatre, in which he himself grew up as the son of a comedian and acrobatic couple, and learned to perform at the age of three and developed his stupendous body control. The film is constructed like an evening in one of these contemporary entertainment theatres for the "uneducated lower class": more of a revue of numbers than a closed narrative, but in addition to the famous bravura piece at the beginning, in which Keaton's multiplication was achieved by masking off parts of the image, multiple exposures of the same film strip and highly precise timing, the twin and the monkey act and the finale are also full of stunning ideas. Legions of later filmmakers made use of The Play House. Just think of the aquarium scene of Mission Impossible. Very few of them even got close to Keaton.

Andreas Furler


Senses of Cinema, 10/1/2002
All rights reserved Senses of Cinema. Provided by Senses of Cinema Archiv
Die Welt, 7/18/2010
All rights reserved Die Welt. Provided by Die Welt Archiv
The Life of Buster Keaton
/ BritMonkey
en / 5/31/2019 / 12‘19‘‘

Video Essay: Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag
Tony Zhou / Every Frame a Painting
en / 3/29/2016 / 8‘34‘‘

What's my Line with Buster Keaton
/ What's My Line?
en / 1/18/2014 / 26‘08‘‘

Movie Datao

Comedy, Silent film
Running time
23 Min.
Original language
Without Dialog
ØYour rating7.5/10
IMDB user:
7.5 (3726)
< 10 votes
< 3 votes q

Cast & Crewo

Buster KeatonAudience / Orchestra / Mr. Brown - First Minstrel / Second Minstrel / Interctors / Stagehand
Edward F. ClineOrangutan trainer (uncredited)
Virginia FoxTwin (uncredited)


The Life of Buster Keaton
BritMonkey, en , 12‘19‘‘
Video Essay: Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag
Every Frame a Painting, en , 8‘34‘‘
What's my Line with Buster Keaton
What's My Line?, en , 26‘08‘‘
An introduction to the work of Buster Keaton
Senses of Cinema / Dan Callahan
Interview: Roger Willemsen über Buster Keaton
Die Welt / Hanns-Georg Rodek
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