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Author Topic: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton  (Read 287 times)

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Offline metaldams

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Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
« on: January 08, 2018, 09:36:56 PM »
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  • Watch PARLOR, BEDROOM AND BATH in the link above


         Man oh man, what a bizarre film!  Plot wise, I'll try my best, but really, this thing loses all sense of character and story by the end.  Buster plays Elmer again and is a self admitted virgin who doesn't know what to do to get a woman.  He gets hit by a car, taken into a rich person's house on the property he's on to be nursed.  The girl he's attracted to won't marry because she can't find the bad boy of her dreams, and this prevents her younger sister from marrying her man because she won't marry before her older sister.  Said man wants older sister to marry and tries his darndest to convince older sister that virginal Elmer is a bad boy.  Are you following me so far?  No?  Neither am I.  Things just get crazier from here, and this is definitely not the normal logical comedy Keaton made when he was in control of his own films.  By the end of this thing, Keaton is in a hotel room doing some acted upon love making ritual to several different women, one jealous man is chasing him with a gun, there's a fake murder....oy vey!  Really fascinating that this kind of film could only be made between 1929 - 1934, as this style of film making completely died with the code, and I do love pre code films.  So as a pre code film, I'm strangely fascinated, but as a Buster Keaton film, not one of his best representations due to character and story, however......

          ....of all the MGM films, this by far has Keaton doing the most physical comedy.  There's him running around the property being chased, diving into pools, dodging men diving after him, being smacked on the head, then towards the end of the film, the way he swings women around and kisses them.  There's also several instances of Keaton being dragged around lifelessly, which does take skill, takes several falls, and the stunts he does with long legged Charlotte Greenwood are quite amazing to watch.  Can't help but wonder if they inspired W.C. Field's acrobatics in the dentist chair a year later with a long legged woman in THE DENTIST.  So yes, of all the MGM films, tons of physical comedy compared to the others.  Nothing that has the classic Keaton wit, but good physical falls nonetheless.

          The ten minutes or so of Keaton driving the girl to the hotel up to the point where he's in the lobby is the part of the film where I feel like Keaton stood up and said, "Enough of this screwball farce stuff, I want to make a Keaton comedy."  Amongst all this chaos and crazy, vapid characters there lies this ten minute pocket of vintage Keaton.  The train gag from ONE WEEK is revisited.  There's a wonderfully muddy hitchhiking scene, a hay ride with a very brief but funny bit of dialogue paying the driver, and a wonderful scene in the lobby of Keaton slipping and sliding all over the place.  Little dialogue, great sight gags...the way Keaton wanted to do talkies.  Too bad he could never do an entire MGM film like this.  Of course, there are some groaner dialogue scenes throughout, like the scene where neither character can spell, (c-h-a-m-p-a....make it wine), and several bits where Keaton is flat out treated and referred to as an imbecile, which his character is.  Again, fine for The Three Stooges, but Keaton's character in his prime was resourceful, and MGM did not understand this.

          Some notes is that the girl Keaton initially falls for that likes the bad boy is played by the very beautiful Dorothy Christie.  She's more famous for playing Mrs. Laurel in SONS OF THE DESERT.  Also, the extravagant house the film takes place was Keaton's real house, the Italian Villa.  Well, Keaton and his wife, Natalie Talmadge's house.  A couple of years after this film, it would be all her's. 

          As somebody fascinated by Keaton and pre code Hollywood, I give this a 10 on personal fascination.  However, on artistic merit, the film doesn't make much sense, but always moves at a quick pace so you don't think about the senseless characters too much and there's tons of physical comedy.  The Keaton characterization is also dim witted Elmer again, so I give this...

    6/10

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: January 09, 2018, 06:21:56 PM »
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  • Well, everybody's certainly trying hard.  It's just not funny.  Historical interest only.  How did this do on first release?  Did anyone ever think this was funny?

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: January 09, 2018, 06:32:52 PM »
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  • Well, everybody's certainly trying hard.  It's just not funny.  Historical interest only.  How did this do on first release?  Did anyone ever think this was funny?

    Keaton's MGM films in general were his highest grossing, with next week's film, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK, being the highest grossing of all.  With Keaton, art and commerce weren't always linked....THE GENERAL did not do well in it's day.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: January 09, 2018, 09:17:15 PM »
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  • http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9803EEDD143BE433A25757C0A9629C946094D6CF

    Here's the initial New York Times review from 1931

    "In a riotous affair known as "Parlor, Bedroom and Bath," an adaptation of the play of the same title, Buster Keaton contributes an energetic performance, which yesterday afternoon elicited no little merriment from the audience in the Capitol.

    This comedy is not notable for its keen wit, for virtually all the stunts done by the long-suffering and block-headed Reginald Irving (Mr. Keaton) belong to the Mack Sennett school. If there is water to fall in, it is there, and when Irving comes in out of the rain—which he does more by accident than design—the water from his hat and clothes causes a commotion that looks as if it might last for hours. Several persons are impelled to slip about the spot, until they seem to be having difficulty in carrying out the director's instructions. The same applies to other scenes where Mr. Irving is found in somewhat compromising situations with several comely women. This young man is so bashful that he is ignorant of the way to kiss a pretty pair of lips.

    Prior to the hectic incidents he experiences in this rowdy yarn, he led an uneventful career as a man who tacks advertisements on telegraph poles. His experiences here arise through his being bowled over by Jeffrey Haywood's automobile. The reason for the feverish activities is that Virginia Embrey refuses to marry Haywood until her sister Angelica is affianced, for Angelica is five years older and it is feared that she might have to retire as a spinster. Considering that Angelica is played by the prepossessing Dorothy Christie, Virginia need not have been worried about her. Angelica, however, manifests an unusual interest in the numbskull Irving, so much so that it is thought that she will be jealous if she hears that any other woman has been flirting with him.

    There are moments when one wonders that Irving still lives, for he is beaten over the head sufficiently to put an end to the strongest of mortals. Nothing daunted, however, he soon appears in a succeeding scene without the slightest sign of an injury. He has a turbulent time with Polly Hathaway, played by Charlotte Greenwood, who gives him an intensive training in the matter of approaching a proposal of marriage and a subsequent violent osculatory exhibition.

    Like Mr. Keaton, Miss Greenwood displays marvelous energy and acrobatics. Reginald Denny is almost rational as Haywood. Natalie Moorhead is her usual stunning self. Sally Eilers portrays Virginia.

    On the Capitol stage is an ambitious revue called "Manhattan Serenade." It has a wealth of color, graceful dancing and some jesting, but it is more than a trifle too long.


    Mr. Keaton's New Farce.
    PARLOR, BEDROOM AND BATH, an adaptation of the stage comedy of the same name; directed by Edward Sedgwick; produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Capitol.
    Reginald Irving . . . . . Buster Keaton
    Polly Hathaway . . . . . Charlotte Greenwood
    Jeffery Haywood . . . . . Reginald Denny
    Bell Hop . . . . . Cliff Edwards
    Angelica Embrey . . . . . Dorothy Christy
    Nita Leslie . . . . . Joan Peers
    Virginia Embrey . . . . . Sally Eilers
    Leila Crofton . . . . . Natalle Moorhead
    Detective . . . . . Edward Brophy
    Frederick Leslie . . . . . Walter Merrill
    Butler . . . . . Sidney Bracy"

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: January 09, 2018, 10:26:46 PM »
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  • Amazing.  I was ready to switch it off after 30 minutes, though I gutted it out , and the last 15 or 20 were, let's say, livelier.  Very amateurish acting, too, principals included.  Where have I seen that butler before?
         Oh, here's something positive:  Buster looks much more youthful in the film than he does on the poster above.  He looks fifty on the poster.

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: January 10, 2018, 05:57:35 PM »
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  • Well, this was certainly an odd film to say the least, though not really in a good way. Probably the biggest problem with this film is the side characters; for one thing, there’s just way too many of them, which often takes away from Keaton’s own character. The film basically requires you to remember every single character even if they were barely in it. Such is the case with the character of Leila. When she showed up at the hotel, I honestly couldn’t remember who she was until Angie came and brought up the news story on them. Some of the characters can be really annoying as well; Jeff is a selfish man who is willing to put someone else’s life on the line, just so he can marry a woman we barely see and whom even he lies to. Charlotte Greenwood, meanwhile, is way too bizarre in her characterization; half of the time I had no idea exactly what she was trying to get accomplished, and she often doesn’t give Keaton a chance to speak, something I’m expecting a lot of once we get to the Jimmy Durante films.

    It is such a disappointment to see such a downgrade in the supporting cast, especially considering that the three main supporting cast from DOUGHBOYS also appears in this in much more reduced roles. Sally Eiler plays Jeff’s fiancée who we barely see at all, while Edward Brophy briefly appears as a detective. Cliff Edwards gets to do some physical comedy, but doesn’t appear until the second half and does not sing at all.

    The physicality definitely is there, but is hard to enjoy due to the confusing character motivations and plot. When Keaton is trying to run away, I want to be able to see him escape, but, no, they have some maintenance workers hit him on the head while he is basically forced to continue to lie about who he really is. I guess it wouldn’t be as bad if I felt some reason to enjoy any of the romances in this, but all of them are based around confusion: Jeff lies to his fiancée, Fred and Nita are specifically reliant on jealousy, and Angie will only like Keaton when he pretends to be someone he’s not. None of this confusion is ever really cleared up and we are given no reason to support any of these relationships. You’d think that MGM’s story department would be somewhat capable at writing a decent plot line, but judging from this, FREE AND EASY, and SPITE MARRIAGE, it seems as though they basically gave no attention to Keaton’s scripts at all.

    It also doesn’t help that there are some painful dialogue scenes to sit through. One moment you’re watching Keaton doing some physical act that reminds you of the old Keaton, then it’s immediately followed by a poorly timed dialogue scene. These scenes only serve to make you wish you were watching one of Keaton’s silent films instead.

    Ok, so is it as bad as FREE AND EASY? No, believe me, that is a very hard accomplishment. As mentioned, the physicality is there and does work sometimes. Probably the best example is during the scene where they’re in the hotel lobby and everyone is struggling to keep their balance; I actually did find that to be a really funny moment. A rare moment of resourcefulness in an MGM film occurs very late in here, when Keaton stands on Charlotte Greenwood’s shoulders and both hide behind the pole to get away from all the chaos going on. Unfortunately, the film is just way too senseless with very little feeling of things wrapping up in the end. This is another film that I’d recommend skipping.

    4 out of 10