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Buster Keaton





Metro Pictures Corp., 1922.  Directed by Edward F. Kline, Buster Keaton.  Camera:  Elgin Lessley.  With Buster Keaton, Monte Collins, Wheezer Dell, Harry Madison, Kate Price, Joe Roberts, Tom Wilson.

My Wife's Relations and the six films that followed did not equal the quality of the best of the earlier shorts.  By this time, Buster had mastered the two-reeler and was anxious to start making features, as Chaplin and Harold Lloyd had already done.  All of these remaining shorts have wonderful moments, but the comic invention is not sustained as in the earlier films.  They give one the feeling that Buster and his team were in need of new challenges and were growing restless with the two-reel form.

In My Wife's Relations Buster is falsely accused of breaking a window.  A large, rugged Irishwoman (Kate Price) hauls him into court where the judge—who does not speak English—marries them by mistake.  She takes him home to her father and four brothers, who treat him with contempt until they mistakenly believe he is about to inherit one hundred thousand dollars.  The family then loans the bewildered Buster money to move the entire clan into an expensive apartment, and there they live a life of luxury until it is discovered that Buster's inheritance is nonexistent.  The film ends with Buster making his getaway on a train bound for Reno.

The scene Buster liked best in the film is the family dinner:  Buster is not fast enough to get anything but empty serving plates until he changes the calendar to Friday, providing him his only opportunity to get a steak from the devout Irish Catholic family.  Buster would rework this same material for his Educational comedy Palooka from Paducah (1935), with his own father, other, and sister in the cast.

Kate Price, who plays the virago wife in My Wife's Relations, was in fact a sweet character actress who had worked with Arbuckle and Mary Pickford, and with whom Buster enjoyed working.  She had a good sense of humor, and caused the cast and crew to burst into laughter in the scene in which she brings Buster home to meet her family, and as they enter through the door her hungry family asks her for dinner.  She shouted, "Dinner my ass!  Look what I married!"  Unfortunately, Kate's line did not make it into the film's intertitles.

Buster Keaton Remembered,
by Eleanor Keaton and Jeffrey Vance
Harry N. Abrams (April 2001)