Buster Keaton's The Playhouse

Essay by NatashaCoxUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, November 2014

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Natasha Cox

English 109 30/08/14

English 109 Drama on Stage and Scene 'The Playhouse'

Choose three different "gags" from Buster Keaton's film The Playhouse and describe how each of them works. Then outline how these three collectively can be linked together and shown to contribute to the overall dramatic shape and pattern of The Playhouse.

The Playhouse featuring Buster Keaton, if an incredible piece of cinema that was released in 1921, with features and effects far ahead of its time. Keaton's multiple 'gags' throughout the short twenty-two minute film create an enthralling and entertaining cinematic masterpiece, that keeps the audience focused on Keaton's comedic skills. These 'gags' help to show character development, move the narrative along, as well show the films comedic themes. The 'multiple Keaton gag', the 'monkey gag' as well as the 'beard on fire gag' are all examples of Keaton's masterful skills on the stage which are all projected onto this film.

The most prominent, noticeable, and well-remembered 'gag' in this film is the 'multiple Keaton' gag. While not a first of its time, the extent to which Keaton uses this technique is what had made it so well-remembered. In early cinema there were several ways to create the illusion of having more than one of the same person in the same shot. You could do this through the use of double exposure where one shot is transferred on top of another. However, Keaton and his camera man Elgin Lessley, used a camera technique known as multiple exposure. In this 'gag' Keaton is seen playing many roles at once, while this is a technique seen before, the greatness of these shots was the fact that you could see multiple Keaton's in one shot all performing their own instrument. The scene opens with a conductor...