US Release Date: 09-01-1920
Directed by: Buster Keaton
- Buster Keaton, as
- The Groom
- Sybil Seely as
- The Bride
Keaton's house before the storm.
One Week is a nice 22 minute gimmicky Buster Keaton short. It shows his usual physical stunts as well as his eye for sight gags.
The movie opens with the words, “Wedding bells have such a sweet sound, but such a sour echo.” We then see Buster and his new bride leaving the church. The scene contains a truly remarkable stunt with two cars and a motorcycle.
After escaping their ride from the church, Buster and wife begin their life together by building their home. Of course it all turns out wrong, giving Buster plenty of opportunities to fall and hurt himself. He even uses the famous wall falling over him routine. He used it previously in Backstage (1919) and would use it again in Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928). Also like the 1928 classic, One Week contains a storm scene, on Friday the 13th of course.
One noteworthy scene is when Buster’s bride is shown taking a bath. Of course you do not see anything, but for a film that was made when women’s bathing suits covered everything, it seems a bit risque. For a joke and titillation, she drops the soap and needs to reach over the tub to grab it. A hand comes out of nowhere and blocks the camera lens as she does so.
Keaton, along with co-director and writer, Eddie Cline use the house as an amazing prop. From putting in the chimney, to using the porch railing as a ladder, the home nearly becomes a character itself. My favorite sight gag is when Keaton tries to move the house by nailing his car to it.
Keaton's house after the storm.
I often compare silent two-reel comedies to television sitcoms. Some episodes are better than others. One Week would be a season ending finale. It was the first movie Keaton released as an independent producer and he was clearly at the peak of his creative power.
The pacing is nearly perfect. The week flies by with each day bringing some new development in the story. The house really is a character. It makes a brilliant prop and Keaton, in real life, had a hand in designing it.
Eric, you didn’t mention that the wife’s jilted ex-boyfriend sabotages Keaton by changing the painted numbers on the do-it-yourself house-building kit. Keaton winds up with an exterior door on the upper floor and an ill-fitting roof. The look of the house is quite comical.
After the storm, the house gets even more dilapidated looking. The ending is quite simply one of the funniest and most exhilarating sight gags from any silent comedy. This just might be Buster Keaton’s best short.
Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely in One Week.
This was Keaton's first short on his own, following his many successful pairings with Roscoe Arbuckle. Having recently watched several of the Arbuckle/Keaton films, I was curious to see how Keaton would differentiate himself. I noticed three things almost immediately that set him apart from Arbuckle and show why, beyond the infamous Arbuckle scandal, Keaton is remembered better of the two men.
Most obviously, Keaton is better a physical comedian. That much was obvious when he was still Arbuckle's sidekick, but in this movie, as it would be for the rest of his career, it is front and center. He throws himself around with abandon, as if he were made of rubber. The way he flips his body around climbing ladders, swinging from ropes, etc., it's acrobatic. I wonder if Keaton was a good dancer, because he had impeccable timing.
Keaton also makes himself the underdog. Here he is fooled by his rival who renumbers the boxes and is clearly in over his head, but he gamely keeps assembling the house. Arbuckle was almost never the underdog. He seemed always the smartest person in the movie and usually ended up on top by the end. With Keaton, you want him to succeed, but with Arbuckle, you already knew he was going to.
And lastly, there's a scene that Keaton includes early on in the movie that is sweet and helps humanize his character. When Keaton comes around the corner of the house, his wife is painting intertwined hearts on the walls. Keaton notices this and kisses his wife in a nice little moment, that isn't there because it's funny, but because it helps put you on his side. You empathize with him more. It's a tiny little touch, but a nice one and isn't one you'd likely see in an Arbuckle short.
I couldn't agree with you guys more that the house is a character in the film. You have to give the props department their due because they managed to make something that looks like it could fall over in a light breeze and yet it takes a hell of a beating and remains standing almost to the end.
Reportedly, The High Sign was actually the first film Keaton made on his own, but he delayed the release of that movie because he felt One Week was the stronger film. I've never seen The High Sign, but given what a comic little gem this film is, it's safe to say that Keaton made a good choice if he wanted to get his solo career going with a bang.
Photos © Copyright Metro Pictures Corporation (1920)