Buster Keaton meets his wife's relations.
My Wife's Relations is one of my favorite Buster Keaton shorts. It was made at the most prolific point in his career. Just two years before he had left Arbuckle to make his own movies and the next year he would start making feature length films.
The movie opens with Keaton pulling some taffy at a store. A mailman walks in and Keaton gets him caught up in the taffy. Keaton runs off as the mailman throws a bottle at him, breaking a window. As Keaton rounds a corner, he smashes into a large woman. She drags him off to see a judge.
The Polish judge mistakes them for a Polish couple that had called earlier about getting married. He marries Buster and the woman in Polish, without them knowing it until they see the Marriage Certificate they unwittingly signed. The large bride takes Buster to her home, which she shares with her four huge brothers. They lift Buster into the air and look him over, commenting that he is too small to make it in their family.
The wedding night is anything but sexy as the only physical contact is the newlyweds hitting each other. The next morning one of the brothers finds a letter, which had accidentally got stuck to Buster after he got the mailman sticky. The letter says that he is to inherited $100,000. The brothers-in-law and wife now think Keaton is about to come into money so they change their tune.
They all put their money together and rent a huge place with a servant. Eventually they find out the letter was for someone else and they end up, what else, chasing Buster off. The chase ends with Buster jumping onto a train leaving for Reno. Divorce anyone?
My Wife's Relations is funny from start to finish. Keaton was short and his height is played to good use next to the four goons. My favorite moments though, are when he has to deal with his big wife. The look on Keatons normally stone face when he sees the certificate of marriage is priceless.
Buster Keaton takes a family photo with his Wife's Relations.
After reading your review Eric, I certainly expected more from this Keaton short. It's amusing enough I suppose, but not all that particularly memorable. When I watch a Keaton short, I generally expect to see at least one physical stunt that I've never seen before, but there's nothing like that here.
Interestingly, this was made shortly after Keaton's first marriage began when he was reportedly supporting her and her large family. You can't help but suspect that he might have been sending a message to someone.
When the family is chasing Keaton around at the end is probably the best moment. He really was a live action cartoon. For decades afterwards Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes would reproduce in animation form what he accomplished in real life. And god knows the joke he uses in this movie involving the suds overflowing out the door would be reused dozens of time in the future by other lesser comedians.
I agree that good use is made of Keaton's diminutive size. Even his wife towers over him. Their family portrait is amusing as his brother-in-laws move him out of the way by simply picking him up and setting him aside.
My Wife's Relations is an okay film, but it's not one of my favorites of Keatons. I am glad that I now see how the postman got sticky. I've been wondering about that since I first read your review.
The family that prays together...
Of all the Keaton shorts I’ve watched thus far I would say One Week is his masterpiece, followed by Neighbors and The Playhouse. My Wife’s Relations is amusing but not in the same league as those movies. Keaton is good as always as the hapless sap that unwittingly gets married but, like Scott, I was expecting more laughs based on Eric’s review.
I do agree with you Eric about one of the best moments. I laughed at Buster’s reaction to the marriage certificate; the once-over he gives his “bride” is priceless. And later when he enters the mansion in his swell clothes he captures the perfect haughty look of disdain. His subtle facial expressions are often as funny as his brilliantly elastic body.
Kate Price steals several scenes as the overweight wife. I cracked up when she manhandled Keaton after he fell on top of her in bed. She grabs him by his rear-end and hair and tosses him back to the other bed. The brothers’ best moments are during the meal as they keep Keaton too busy passing things back and forth to take a bite.
You can see the advances in film quality and increases in Keaton’s budgets when compared to movies he made just a few years earlier. The cast is larger and the sets fancier anyway. My Wife’s Relations is a solid, though unexceptional, entry in Buster Keaton’s career.
Photos © Copyright First National Pictures (1922)