A young couple who live next to each other in tenement apartments do everything they can to be together despite of their feuding families.

Directors:

(as Eddie Cline), (as 'Buster' Keaton)

Writers:

(as Eddie Cline), (as 'Buster' Keaton)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
The Boy
Virginia Fox ...
The Girl
...
...
Edward F. Cline ...
The Cop
...
The Judge
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
The Flying Escalantes ...
Themselves
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Storyline

The Romeo and Juliet story played out in a tenement neighborhood with Buster and Virginia's families hating each other over the fence separating their buildings. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy | Romance

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Release Date:

22 December 1920 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Backyard  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

His Father: He's my son and I'll break his neck any way I please!
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Connections

Featured in Silent Clowns: Buster Keaton (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Romeo & Juliet in slap-shoes
29 January 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

A viewer who has never seen a Buster Keaton comedy might get the wrong idea of what to expect from this film's introductory title card, which reads: "The Flower of Love Could Find No More Romantic Spot in Which to Blossom Than in This Poet's Dream Garden." We are then shown a grungy courtyard between two tenement buildings divided by a fence, and on opposite sides of the fence we find The Boy (Buster) and The Girl (Virginia Fox), sweetly in love but kept apart by feuding parents. But fear not, for the flowery wording of that introduction is meant in jest: Neighbors is no exercise in Griffith-style sentimentality about poor people. (For one thing, if D.W. Griffith had directed this he'd have called it "Romeo & Juliet of the Slums" or perhaps "Pyramis & Thisbe of Pig Alley.") This isn't a melodrama of life among the lowly, it's Buster in his youthful prime, and it's funny. There's action and comedy galore, and it's interesting to observe that the attitude expressed towards love and marriage is far from sentimental --which is a little surprising, considering that 24 year-old Buster was still a fun-loving bachelor when he made this movie.

In any event, once the situation is established we are treated to a series of fast-moving gag sequences emphasizing the hostile relationship between The Girl's father (played by Buster's frequent screen nemesis Big Joe Roberts) and The Boy's father (played by Buster's own dad Joe Keaton). It is clear that the two fathers hold each other in contempt, and vigorously oppose any closer relationship between their respective families. There's a great example of Keaton's special brand of physical comedy early on when Buster attempts to visit Virginia in her third floor room. When he's caught by her father he promptly flings himself out her window, across a clothesline that leads to his own window across the way, down a banister and back across the clothesline to Virginia's building, right smack into Big Joe. The sequence flashes by in seconds and may leave you blinking in amazement, but before you can catch your breath Buster has been forcibly hung upside down by his feet from the clothesline, hauled back across the courtyard like dirty laundry, and then (accidentally) beaten by his father, who has mistaken his own son for a rug. Moments later, Buster is dumped head-first through a rain barrel into sopping wet mud. And so it goes! Welcome to This Poet's Dream Garden.

Neighbors is a comedy better seen than described. At times it feels like a live-action Warner Brothers cartoon, but instead of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam we're watching actual people perform these stunts. The premise of feuding families is a simple and effective framework for Keaton's terrific set-pieces. (He would return to the family feud motif on a much grander scale in Our Hospitality a few years later.) The rougher slapstick material is briefly held in check as the brawling families are dragged into court, chastised by a judge, and ordered to permit their offspring to wed. But needless to say the ceremony is a disaster, and the action resumes with a wild finale in which Buster and Virginia escape from their families to elope. The best gag sequence is saved for last, as Buster takes part in a three-man balancing act racing through the streets, a bit that required the participation of the Flying Escalantes, a team of acrobats Buster knew from his vaudeville days. Latter day cartoon directors such as Chuck Jones and Tex Avery often gave credit to the influential silent era comedians they'd admired as kids, and the finale of this film must surely have been the sort of thing they were talking about.

While Neighbors may not rank in the very top tier of Keaton's output it's an exhilarating, highly amusing comedy that holds up well today. Besides, Buster's second-echelon efforts are better than most anyone else's masterworks!


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