Screen Directors' Playhouse: The Silent Partner (1955)

Run Time - 30 min.  |  
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"The Silent Partner" is, along with John Ford's "Rookie of the Year", perhaps the best-known episode of the TV anthology series Screen Directors' Playhouse. Buster Keaton stars as Kelsey Dutton, a former silent-film comedian fallen upon hard times. While visiting a neighborhood tavern, Kelsey is recognized by Selma (ZaSu Pitts), herself an ex-actress. Their happy reunion is spoiled by the Academy Award telecast being shown on the bar's TV set, in which prominent actor-director Arthur Vail (Joe E. Brown), accepting an Oscar, flippantly refers to Kelsey and Selma as washed-up hasbeens. As it turns out, however, Vail's apparent cruelty has a noble purpose. Directed and cowritten by George Marshall, who in his movie heyday worked with the likes of Bob Hope, W.C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy, the film is at its best when recreating the Golden Days of silent slapstick comedy, of which Keaton was an acknowledged master. Unavailable for many years, The Silent Partner was put back in circulation for collectors and aficionados alike by Blackhawk Films in the mid-1970s.