Spite Marriage (1929)

Ninety-four years ago today, the film Spite Marriage premiered. It is the second film Buster Keaton made for MGM and his last silent film, although he had wanted it to be a “talkie” or full sound film. While the production has no recorded dialogue, it does feature an accompanying synchronized score and recorded laughter, applause, and other sound effects in some scenes. later wrote gags for some up-and-coming MGM stars like Red Skelton, and from this film recycled many gags, some shot-for-shot, for Skelton’s 1943 film I Dood It.

Title: Spite Marriage
Directed by: Edward Sedgwick & Buster Keaton
Written by: Robert Hopkins (titles)
Story by: Lew Lipton & Ernest Pagano (adaption)
Produced by: Joseph M. Schenck Productions
Starring: Buster Keaton, Dorothy Sebastian
Cinematography: Reggie Lanning
Edited by: Frank Sullivan
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: April 6, 1929
Running time: 74-80 minutes
Country: United States

Elmer, a humble worker in a dry cleaning establishment, idolizes stage actress Trilby Drew. He goes to see her performances all the time, pretending to be a wealthy admirer.

Trilby is in love with fellow actor Lionel Benmore. When Lionel temporarily spurns her for the younger Ethyl Norcrosse, she impulsively asks Elmer to marry her. Her manager, worried about the damage it would do to her career if it got out that she had married a pants presser, tells Elmer the next day that she wants out of the marriage.

Elmer gets into an altercation with Benmore, eventually punching him. Benmore gets the police to chase him. During the pursuit, Elmer gets into a taxi with an armed gunman. After the driver flees, the crook forces Elmer to drive the taxi into the ocean. He is rescued by a passing ship.

Wanting to have nothing more to do with Trilby, Elmer gets a job on the ship. However, it turns out that she and Benmore are passengers. When the engine room catches fire, the order is given to abandon ship. Trilby is knocked unconscious when Benmore panics, and is left behind. Elmer manages to put out the fire, leaving him and Trilby alone aboard. The ship is then taken over by crooks. When Trilby is discovered by their lecherous leader, Elmer has to take on the entire gang to save her. He returns to port in triumph. He sees Trilby home and starts to leave, but she stops him, having seen his true worth.

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