An astonishing new Keaton stunt, Buster’s return visit to a classic apartment house, and yet another surprise appearance of the Cops – The Kid – Safety Last! Hollywood alley – the Lobster Films restoration of My Wife’s Relations (1922), with over a minute of restored footage unseen for decades, is a cornucopia of new discoveries and delights.
On screen Buster is mistakenly married to a harridan, moves in with her caveman brothers, and after a climatic family brawl, the film concludes (in the version we’ve been accustomed to seeing) as Buster flees for a Reno-bound train. In the Lobster restoration, Buster flees the family apartment, is chased back inside by the cops, only to escape from the top apartment floor by swinging diagonally from upper window awning to lower window awning. Dropping safely to street level, Buster’s triumph is short-lived, as he is hauled into the back of a police wagon (where? – at that Hollywood alley, see below). But when the wagon hits a pothole, Buster escapes in time for the final fadeout, presumably headed for that Reno train.
Buster appears in the courtyard of the Alvarado Arms apartments, at 847 S. Alvarado (you can see the “A” initials in the doorway and on the sidewalk post, at top). This was familiar territory, as Buster filmed here the year before for an introductory shot of Virginia Fox (below) walking beside the apartment complex during The Goat (1921). You can also see the twin wings of the Alvarado Arms behind Buster’s head in this publicity shot from The Goat (right), staged in front of the extant Weymouth Apartments, 914 S. Alvarado, that portrayed Virginia’s home during that film.
Although I like to think I would have eventually solved this location mystery, I ‘discovered’ it by what is the most satisfying coincidence I have ever experienced. I viewed this ‘new’ apartment scene for the first time on a Wednesday at my home in the bay area. By that Saturday I had traveled to LA to introduce Safety Last! for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats. Due to downtown crowds, I ended up eating breakfast that day at Langer’s Delicatessen at Alvarado and 7th, and because of where I had parked, decided to take Alvarado to Olympic for my return drive downtown. As I drove past the apartment where Buster filmed Virginia’s introductory shot, I glanced at the interior courtyard. I almost kept going, but something in that brief glimpse caught my eye. Circling the block for a better look, I could clearly see it was the same spot from My Wife’s Relations. So after watching this scene at home in the bay area, there I was, only 3 days later, standing in front of that very spot out of all the spots in Los Angeles! I wish I had this type of luck picking lottery numbers instead, but it sure was fun.
If that wasn’t enough, when I saw that the newly discovered final scene was filmed at the Cops – The Kid – Safety Last! alley, I nearly fell out of my seat.
The discovery of Buster’s new stunt also explains the appearance of the unusual Keaton Studio set visible below.
As a further bonus, the scene where Buster first runs into his future bride, played by Kate Price, was filmed at the corner of N. Beachwood Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, across the street from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In the scene at right you can read the 6025 address over the doorway. Although the corner has been remodeled, it appears in this 1927 McDougall “Alley Kids” comedy Oh Boy, preserved for online viewing HERE by the National Film Preservation Foundation. As shown on the vintage map below, Keaton staged this scene, as many others, just a few blocks away from his small studio.
My Wife’s Relations from Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917 – 1923 (C) 2016 Kino-Lorber, Lobster Films.
The Alvarado Arms, twice appearing in Keaton’s films.