Cast & Crew
Jeffrey Hayward is in love with Virginia Embrey, but Virginia refuses to marry him until her sister Angelica, who is four years older than she, finds a husband. Frustrated by Virginia's stipulation, Jeff threatens to marry Angelica himself. Meanwhile, outside the Embrey estate, Reginald Irving, a homely billboard painter, is hit by a car while walking along the road. The injured pedestrian is rushed to the Embreys', where Jeff decides to fix him up with Angelica. In order to make Reginald more appealing to the snobbish Angelica, Jeff tells her that Reggie is famous and pays women admirers to surround Reggie and make him seem important. The hapless sign painter, bewildered by all the activity, tries to escape by climbing out of his window, but he is spotted by Jeff, who tackles him and brings him back. Reggie is soon put in charge of managing Angelica's eight million dollar estate. Jeff orders him to stay and continue the hoax until marriage arrangements between him and Angelica are made firm. Believing that Reggie will appear more desirable to Angelica if he is caught having an affair with another woman, Jeff enlists the help of gossip columnist Polly Hathaway, who agrees to meet Reggie at a hotel. Knowing that the half-witted Reggie is incapable of romancing a woman properly, Jeff gives him step-by-step instructions to seduce his date when he gets to the hotel. Jeff's plan goes awry when Reggie mistakes the dejected Nita, a friend of the Embreys', who has just had a quarrel with her husband Frederick, for his date and takes her to the hotel. On the way to the hotel, Reggie's car stalls on railroad tracks and is destroyed by a passing train, forcing the couple to hitchhike in the pouring rain. Drenched, the two arrive at the hotel, while Angelica and Virginia set out in search of them. Nita is shocked when Reggie tries to force his intentions upon her, and she attempts to flee. When Polly arrives at the hotel, she begins to rehearse Jeff's romancing instructions with Reggie. While Polly teaches Reggie how to kiss, Jeff arrives and, realizing that Reggie has bungled the scheme, warns him that Nita's jealous husband is on his way to kill him. Again, not knowing that it is Polly with whom he is supposed to be caught, Reggie turns to Leila Crofton, another of Angelica's friends, and begins making love to her. Virginia and Angelica burst into the room in the middle of Reggie's attack, but before they are able to react, Frederick arrives on the scene and pulls a gun on Reggie. Jeff manages to save Reggie, but when a gunshot rings out, Polly falls to the floor and is believed to be dead. Everyone flees from the scene when the police arrive, except for Reggie, who tries to hide the body. When Polly regains consciousness, she urges Reggie to use Jeff's lovemaking method on Angelica, and it appears that he and Angelica will become lovers.
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) is based on the 1917 play by Charles W. Bell and Mark Swan. It was previously adapted for the screen in 1920 by Edward Dillon, starring Eugene Pallette and Ruth Stonehouse. After seeing the play in a 1930 revival, MGM producer Larry Weingarten chose it as a starring vehicle for Buster Keaton. Keaton himself didn't care for this type of door-slamming farce, but he was able to work in the kind of physical comedy that he excelled at. The film was shot simultaneously in French and German-language versions. The main location was the Italian Villa, Keaton's actual estate in Beverly Hills; indeed, one of the film's chief attractions today is the opportunity to glimpse the truly palatial home of a Hollywood star during the heyday of the studio era.
In some respects, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath is a typical product of the early sound period. Eager for ready-made content to cash in on the demand for talking pictures, studios purchased a large number of stage plays of all kinds to adapt for the screen. They also signed up performers from Vaudeville and Broadway, since they already had well-developed speaking and musical talents. For instance, one of Charlotte Greenwood's biggest vehicles before this was the title character in So Long, Letty (1929), an adaptation of the Oliver Morosco play; Greenwood herself originated that role in the 1915 stage production. As if to further underscore the primacy of dialogue, the film lacks a musical score altogether apart from the credit sequences.
While the dialogue is undeniably dated from today's standpoint and probably seemed somewhat creaky even back in 1931, the film still contains some choice Keaton gags, particularly his tumbles up and down stairs, his arrival at the hotel in a sopping wet outfit, his slipping in the pool of water he creates at the registration desk, and his hilariously athletic lovemaking. The film also benefits from strong performances by its character actors; Reginald Denny (1891-1967), best known for his role as Algy Longworth in the Bulldog Drummond films of the late 30s, plays the suave, scheming boyfriend Jeffrey. Other standout roles for the attractive Natalie Moorhead (1901-1992) include a suspect in The Thin Man (1934) and Belle Starr in the Hopalong Cassidy Western Heart of Arizona (1938). But best of all, unquestionably, is the eccentric, loose-legged Charlotte Greenwood (1892-1977) as Polly Hathaway; her sharp line delivery and physical agility make her a formidable match for Keaton. Rodgers and Hammerstein were sufficiently taken with her skills as a stage actress to conceive the role of Aunt Eller for her in the original 1943 stage production of Oklahoma. However, she was unable to play the part until the 1955 film.
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath was released in the spring of 1931 and was generally well received. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times praised Keaton's slapstick and Charlotte Greenwood's "marvelous energy and acrobatics," as did Variety. The reviewer for Photoplay wrote: "And until you've seen giraffy Charlotte and half-pint Buster neck, you haven't seen necking."
Director: Edward Sedgwick
Dialogue Continuity: Richard Schayer
Additional Dialogue: Robert E. Hopkins
Original Play: Charles W. Bell, Mark Swan Producer: Buster Keaton Photography: Leonard Smith
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Film Editor: William LeVanway
Wardrobe: Rene Hubert
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Principal Cast: Buster Keaton (Reginald Irving), Charlotte Greenwood (Polly Hathaway), Reginald Denny (Jeffrey Hayward), Cliff Edwards (Bellhop), Dorothy Christy (Angelica Embrey), Joan Peers (Nita Leslie), Sally Eilers (Virginia Embrey), Natalie Moorhead (Leila Crofton), Edward Brophy (Detective), Walter Merrill (Frederick Leslie), Sidney Bracey (Butler).
by James Steffen
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
Industrial Strength Keaton - Rare Shorts and Footage of the "Great Stone Face" on DVD
Industrial Strength Keaton is an odds-and-ends compilation along the lines of Kino's Keaton Plus, and it's been assembled and packaged with an affection for both Keaton and his fans. The industrial theme has been carried over to the graphics of the packaging and onscreen menus, which have a washer/detergent theme to them (a graphic splash on the box promises, "Now with… more deadpan!"). There's also an essay-filled, 20-page booklet and audio commentaries by several of the film historians and comedy buffs who've penned the essays. And while the two features on Industrial Strength Keaton (the so-so 1931 farce Parlor, Bedroom and Bath from his MGM downward spiral and the generally joyless, English-made An Old Spanish Custom) are barely worth one viewing, these discs dig up interesting oddities.
The first disc includes Keaton appearances in a trio of studio promotional shorts from the 1920s and 1930s, but it's the second disc that is the more satisfying hodgepodge. After getting a career boost through his late-1940s TV show (a local Los Angeles program that went national), Keaton was a frequent face on variety shows and in commercials and industrial films until his 1966 death. Industrial Strength Keaton has a strong sampling of Buster's work in these media, starting with three TV recreations of the "can of molasses" bit he first did in The Butcher Boy, the Fatty Arbuckle short that was Keaton's very first film (look for character actor extraordinaire Billy Gilbert as his straight man in one of them). Similarly, his 1956 appearance on The Martha Raye Show reworks his big scene in Charlie Chaplin's Limelight, with Raye taking Chaplin's part.
As you can tell, Keaton's comedy in the 1950s and 1960s was pretty backward-looking, which actually is a little disappointing. Even second-rate talkies like Parlor, Bedroom and Bath show that Keaton had good verbal timing and a terse voice that fit his deadpan persona well. But, for whatever reason, in the last 15 years of his life, Keaton plied his wares as a silent comic in a talkie world. That was his schtick, and what made him marketable. Of course, how many 60-year-olds (or 30-year-olds) were as physically gifted at comedy as Keaton and could take a pratfall as well as he could? He is still very funny in the many commercials collected on Industrial Strength Keaton, for such products as Alka-Seltzer, Simon Pure Beer and Jeep. With their quick hits and sight gags, these national and regional ads provide some of the biggest laughs on these discs and make wise use of Keaton's subtle facial expressions, amusing body language and daredevil falls.
While the commercials are all solid, there's more of a variety in quality in the three industrials on the collection. They're all about the length of an old two-reeler, and employ Keaton as part of their "soft sell" approach. But 1961's The Home Owner, a Phoenix real-estate developer's sales film that resurfaced only in 1999, is clearly the best of the bunch. Professionally shot, in bright color, it has a relaxed pace that lets Keaton build up his gags well. Playing what might be best described as a "funny little man," as he often does in the commercials and industrials, Buster is a prospective customer being shown the various model homes in the Maryvale development in Phoenix. The lawns, appliances and the distraction presented by a shapely blond give Keaton plenty of set-ups to pratfalls. Aside from Keaton's contributions, this film is also a remarkable document of Space Age optimism and migration into the southwest (film historian Richard Roberts explains how he unearthed it in his audio commentary, too).
The Devil to Pay is clearly the least of the industrials here, simply because, unlike The Home Owner, this clunky National Association of Wholesalers film does such a poor job of integrating Keaton into its premise. He's almost superfluous to it, and his presence is too contrived to ever be amusing. Somewhere in between is the Kodak promo filmThe Triumph of Lester Snapwell, in which Buster plays an amateur photographer through the decades. He takes some wild tumbles in his photographic quests, though even more so than in The Home Owner or some of the commercials, making a 25-year-old blonde the would-be fiancée of 67-year-old Keaton seems creepy, especially since her cranky mother is also a character (and the actress playing her was younger than Buster). Ironically, the color in the Kodak film is very faded.
Keaton completists will no doubt be thrilled with Industrial Strength Keaton, while less ardent fans can also enjoy some rare Buster, too. Some of it you'll never want to watch again, but this collection is so generous, there's still a lot to like.
For more information about Industrial Strength Keaton, visit MacKinac Media. To order Industrial Strength Keaton, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Sherman
Industrial Strength Keaton - Rare Shorts and Footage of the "Great Stone Face" on DVD
Filmed in Buster Keatons own house.
This film was also made in French and German-language versions-see record for Buster se marie. According to the Variety review, most of this film was shot on location at Buster Keaton's Beverly Hills home, where he also shot the foreign versions of the picture. A biography of Keaton notes that when the actor was first shown the working script for this farce comedy, he took an instant disliking to it and indicated that it was the type of comedy he did not appreciate. An earlier film based on the same play was Metro's 1920 production, also entitled Parlor, Bedroom and Bath, which starred Eugene Pallette and Ruth Stonehouse, and was directed by Edward Dillon.