Scen.: Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline. F.: Elgin Lessley. Int.: Buster Keaton (lo sposo), Sybil Seely (la sposa), Joe Roberts (il facchino). Prod.: Joseph M. Schenck per Comique Film Corporation DCP. D.: 25’. Bn.
One Week is arguably Buster Keaton’s first masterpiece and one of the finest short films ever made. After a mere fifteen comedies made in tandem with Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle between 1917 and 1920, Keaton’s visual style, refined sense of comic as well as his extraordinary inventiveness and acting instinct, seem to have burgeoned to perfection. “To sit through dozens and dozens of short comedies of the period and then to come upon One Week – wrote a critic – is to see the one thing no man ever sees: a garden at the moment of blooming”. In discussing the up-curve of Buster Keaton’s career, many have argued that unlike Chaplin, Keaton did not fight for his artistic freedom, and had Joseph Schenck not signed Fatty Arbuckle up for a comedy series to be distributed by Paramount, Keaton might have never obtained his own production unit, the Buster Keaton Comedies.
However, Keaton’s understanding of the film medium and innovative talent must have been apparent at that point. Metro Pictures Corporation began advertising the September 1st release of One Week – as part of a series of films to come out eight weeks apart – in leading film industry trade journals such as “Motion Picture News” or “Moving Picture World”. Additionally, the volume of advertisement produced for One Week in studio system and fan periodicals like “Photoplay”, “Motion Picture” or “Picture Play”, clearly shows that Metro Pictures was aiming high. Keaton was advertised as ‘the serious fun maker’ with great box-office value and ‘an innovative comedian’: “here is the comedy sensation of the year, introducing a new stellar comedian who is going to reach the peaks of filmmaking. He has packed his first two-reel subject with a bundle of brand new ‘gags’ that will set your patrons laughing until (if they wear ‘em) their false teeth will drop out and their waist-bands will ‘shimmy’”.
In New York One Week opened in all major Broadway theatres, for two of them the complete program survives: at the Strand, the evening opened with Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours and featured Lionel Barrymore in The Devil’s Garden by Kenneth Webb; while at the Rivoli, the program included Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown’s The Great Redeemer, along with Liszt’ Les Preludes, Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and the “very well known ballad” The Little Gray Home in the West performed by a soprano, a tenor and a singing quartet. The evening closed with an organ performance.