22 user 18 critic

The Play House (1921)

After waking up from his wacky dream, a theater stage hand inadvertently causes havoc everywhere he works.


Edward F. Cline (as Eddie Cline), Buster Keaton (as 'Buster' Keaton)


Buster Keaton (as 'Buster' Keaton), Edward F. Cline (as Eddie Cline)
1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Buster Keaton ... Audience / Orchestra / Mr. Brown - First Minstrel / Second Minstrel / Stagehand (as 'Buster' Keaton)


Portraying more than twenty characters at once--including lively stage actors, an attentive audience, an orchestra, and an entire nine-member minstrel act--Buster Keaton pushes the boundaries of technical artistry and film trickery, in a time when effects really were special. With this in mind--after waking up from a delightful vaudeville dream sequence--Buster realises that he still is the play house's humble general factotum, and he must keep the show up and running amid delusion and disorder, identical twin sisters, Zouave guards, and a rampant orangutan on the loose. But, can a mere gopher yearn for recognition, and perhaps, love? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He apes the ape as no one else can ape him (Print Ad- Wheeling Intelligencer, ((Wheeling WVA)) 22 April 1922)


Short | Comedy | Fantasy


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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The multiple Busters on screen together were created in the camera, using a special lens with shutters to film only a portion of the scene at a time. Buster would perform one part, then the cameraman would crank the film back and open another shutter to film another part. A banjo player with a metronome helped Buster Keaton to perform precisely at the right time for each take. See more »


Elegant Elderly Lady Buster Keaton is wearing long evening gloves, but when she reaches down to pick the lollipop off her lap, she is not wearing gloves. See more »


Man in Audience: This fellow Keaton seems to be the whole show.
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Alternate Versions

A special 16mm edition was made available in 2002 which restores the film's original title cards, corrects a sequence error within the "monkey scene" and sports a new synchronized music track by The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. See more »


Featured in The Great Buster (2018) See more »

User Reviews

Not Keaton's best...but a technical triumph
26 January 1999 | by Vigilante-407See all my reviews

To be honest, the only video of this movie I've seen has been rather washed out. But the wonderful special effects of the first half still show through. This isn't a Melies' fantasy with avant garde stylings and effects, but rather a simple and almost elegant movie with one simple effect: Buster Keaton plays ALL the parts in a theatre presenting a minstrel show. This may not seem much in the CGI-world of the nineties...but back in the 1920's it was a tour de force. The ease with which Keaton brings together at least ten separate performances at one time is amazing...one can only imagine the planning that went into this movie.

The second half is a tad low-key...though it of course features more of Keaton's acrobatic slapstick, and a particularly striking bit with him dressed up as a monkey.

This is definitely not The General or Steamboat Bill, Jr., but it is very enjoyable and, I believe, very deserving of a high place in the canons of early film for the artistry that Keaton applied to the special effects.

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Release Date:

24 September 1921 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Playhouse See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (DVD) | (1995 Film Preservation Associates print)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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