Spite Marriage (1929)

Passed  |   |  Comedy  |  6 April 1929 (USA)
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An unimpressive but well intending man is given the chance to marry a popular actress, of whom he has been a hopeless fan. But what he doesn't realize is that he is being used to make the actress' old flame jealous.


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Cast overview:
Trilby Drew
Edward Earle ...
Lionel Benmore
Ethyl Norcrosse
William Bechtel ...
Jack Byron ...
Scarzi (as John Byron)


Elmer is a dry cleaner. He is madly in love with stage star Trilby Drew; for each of her 35 performances, he dons someone else's tuxedo and races to the theatre. When Trilby's co-star boyfriend gets engaged to a socialite, she marries Elmer to get even, assuming Elmer is a millionaire (since his clothes are so snazzy.) But she's clearly still in love with her scoundrelous co-star, and her manager makes her leave Elmer, trying to pay him off so the papers don't hear about her marriage to a "cheap pants presser." Can Elmer win her love? Maybe a sea voyage will help. Written by <bletzler@lan.tjhsst.edu>

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Release Date:

6 April 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die unvollkommene Ehe  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The scene in which Buster Keaton puts his inebriated bride to bed was later performed on stage by Keaton and his third wife Eleanor Keaton. It is also re-enacted in The Buster Keaton Story (1957). See more »


In the dressing-room scene while attempting to trim the hair for his false beard, Elmer accidentally severs the left-hand shoulder strap of his vest and has no time to repair it. When we see him hurriedly changing back into his smart clothes after the performance, both straps are still whole. See more »


Featured in So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Buster's gentle swan song silent.

Yes, this was the last film Keaton made without dialogue, but in reality, it wasn't silent at all. It was a sound film, utilizing a full orchestral score with many many sound effects (applause, audience laughter, horse gallops ala coconuts, crowd noises, cash register rings, steam whistles, ambient voices, cheers, etc.) Calling it Keaton's last silent is rather a misnomer - dialogueless, yes, but not released without a soundtrack.

It is a gentle work. Lovestruck Buster marries a woman who is on the rebound from a spurned lover, but through Buster's bravery in defending her, she learns to love him, so a happy ending is ensured.

We miss the usual Buster outfit, especially with the pork pie hat. Also closeups reveal Buster's face rather lined - he's getting too old either to play a young leading man or a love interest at all - which works against the plausibility of the plot line. There are only six main characters. Actually there are only six gag routine set ups:

1. The hat-raising competition which occurs three times; 2. Buster's attempt to attach a fake beard with spirit gum; 3. Buster's clumsy onstage movements which wreck the sets; 4. Dorothy Sebastian's luring thugs down a ship's corridor to be coshed by a hiding Buster; 5. Climactic fight on deck with rigging prop. 6. Putting the rubbery drunken wife to bed.

Very few for a Keaton feature (77 minutes). The most memorable is the putting the wife to bed scene, which runs under five minutes. Seen once or twice though, it is not one to return to over and over again as in most Keaton films. It occurs exactly halfway in the film.

It is a shame that the MGM/UA Turner VHS (released in 1990) is out of print. The copy used is perfection itself - crystal sharp and clear and with a pristine soundtrack (no hiss from worn Vitaphone discs transferred to film stock). It's as if the sound had been recorded directly onto the film track, and indeed by 1929, when it was released, perhaps the industry had already discarded the disc method. Hopes are that this will be reissued on DVD as it is important to have ALL of Buster's silent work available to the public, even the small pieces like this one.

Certainly worth seeing as a fine comedy and by the mere fact that it is Buster performing.

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