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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?


In this short Buster Keaton took credit for every part and job, including editor, director, writer, cameraman etc. This was an allusion to Thomas H. Ince's (the "inventor" of the Western) reputation for doing this. 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 »


Presenter of "The Mermaids": This young lady can stay under water longer than the bottom of a river.
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Alternate Versions

The 35mm print currently (2006) available for theatrical exhibition is slightly different from the DVD version:
  • - There is a British Board of Film Censors approval title and an extra title mentioning the Raymond Rohauer collection.
  • - The inter-titles are in a different font but contain the same text as the DVD version.
  • - The "Written and Directed by" title credits Buster Keaton solely.
  • - There is an out-of-sequence edit in the print. The scene where the Zouave guards walk out and Buster replaces them with street workers comes immediately after the sequence where Buster meets the twins. It begins right as the Zouave chief comes under the stage backdrop and confront Joe Roberts. The scene plays to the fadeout and then immediately cuts to the beginning of the monkey scene. At the end of the monkey scene, the backdrop confrontation begins and abruptly cuts right where it left off earlier in the film.
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Referenced in An American in Paris (1951) See more »

User Reviews

A visual delight... perhaps Keaton's Best Short.
2 December 1998 | by kevin22See all my reviews

Drawing from his experience in vaudeville during his youth, The Playhouse is one of Keaton's most autobiographical shorts. Keaton displays his inventive genius for visual effects in a dream sequence by playing the role of all performers in a minstrel show and its audience as well. Each Buster, from drum player to a Grandma Buster, has its own distinctive personality and character. This is truly one of the great sequences of Keaton's career.

Buster is awakened from his dream of grandiose, caught sleeping on the job. In the second part of the short, he plays a stagehand who gets into trouble both on and off the stage. From this point forward the short relies less on technical marvel, but remains equally entertaining. Keaton's facial impressions when dressed up as a monkey are priceless.

As with most Keaton shorts, there are many unique details which enhance the overall film, but are not essential to the plot. Some of the funniest shots in the film don't even involve Buster, specifically two hilarious Civil War veterans in the theater's audience, each with only one arm.

Buster's co-star in The Playhouse is Virginia Fox. She does a charming job in a dual role playing twins. It has been written that in his youth Buster had a fondness for twin performers and was known to pursue both sisters.

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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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