When a great film star accepts an academy award, he reflects on a comedian he worked with in the early film days, owing his success to him, not realizing that man is now destitute, watching the show on TV from a barstool.
Kelsey Dutton once was a great name of silent comedies. But, for all his talent, sound made him redundant a quarter century before. Now he is no more than a face in the crowd. And a sad one at that! At the moment, Kelsey finds himself in a bar where he is brooding over a beer. The TV is on for both Barney, the barman, and Selma, a movie fan, want to see a program airing the Academy Awards ceremony. Which they do, not without being disturbed by a group of noisy fellows. At a time appears on the screen the famed director Arthur Vail, who takes advantage of his being presented the statuette to pay homage to a forgotten actor without whom he would not be recognized as he is tonight. An amazing performer by the name of... Kelsey Dutton. Written by
This is an episode of a rather amazing Hal Roach Studios TV series, as the stars and directors of these shows were pretty impressive. Here, George Marshall directs Buster Keaton, Zasu Pitts and Joe E. Brown--and a small appearance by Bob Hope as the Academy Awards emcee.
The show is set in the 1950s when the show debuted. It's about a faded silent star, Kelsey Dutton (Keaton)--and this is quite fitting since Stevens first successes were with silent comedies. Keaton enters a bar where a couple patrons (including Pitts) are debating over the merits of some film...as well as whether to watch the Oscars on TV in the bar. During the telecast, they see Brown receive an honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievements. During Brown's acceptance speech, he gives thanks to Dutton and you then see a flashback scene that makes up much of the episode. It seems that Dutton's roots as a film comedian began with a chance blundering into a scene that was being filmed--and he didn't even know it wasn't real. Now, sadly, he's almost forgotten--much like Keaton in real life.
This episode of "Screen Directors Playhouse" is incredibly nostalgic and a bit maudlin. However, for fans of silent comedy (and I am definitely one), it's a must see--a nice homage to the genre. And, if you like this, try seeing Chaplin's "Limelight" (which also has a nice cameo by Keaton)--another homage to comedy of yesterday that was made shortly before this episode. Not great but well worth seeing.
By the way, for this show they made some fake silent comedy clips. They really weren't all that funny and I wonder why they didn't just show some of Keaton's actual clips from this golden age.
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