Back Stage

Released: September 1, 1919
Length: Two reels
Presented by: Comique Film Corporation
Distribution: Paramount Pictures
Producer: Joseph M. Schenck
Director: Roscoe Arbuckle
Scenario: Jean Havez and Roscoe Arbuckle
Photography: Elgin Lessley

Roscoe Arbuckle: Stage Manager
Buster Keaton, Al St. John: Stage hands
Molly Malone: Strongman’s Assistant
John Coogan: Novelty Dancer
Also: Buddy Post


Arbuckle and Keaton draw on their vaudeville origins in Backstage. They are busy preparing for a show: striking a bedroom set, pasting up a poster (and an interfering child), repairing the floor. A novelty dancer, John Coogan, arrives and demonstrates his act. Arbuckle and Keaton both try to imitate him, but they both end up on the floor. The strongman and his baggage-laden assistant, Molly Malone, arrive. The hands are horrified by his maltreatment of her, but Arbuckle’s first attempts to teach him some manners through a beating fail. Keaton tries a less diplomatic approach with an ax, but the weapon only tickles the behemoth. Finally they electrify a barbell and shock him into unconsciousness. After he wakes up, he and the rest of the troupe walk out. Malone stays and suggests that they put on the show themselves. They shake hands on it.

The show begins with an operetta, “The Falling Reign.” After Malone dances, King Roscoe and Queen Buster perform a sort of pas de deux to the jeers of the novelty dancer. Malone comes back and seduces the King. Enraged with jealousy, Keaton stabs Arbuckle by sliding a knife under his arm. Arbuckle dies melodramatically. They take their bows. The strongman muscles his way into the balcony, and the show continues with “A Snowflake Serenade.” Snow wafts down on the stage as Keaton chauffeurs Arbuckle to a house. Arbuckle begins to play his harmonica, but when they run out of snow, he gives up on the winter scene. Shedding his coat and taking a ukulele out of his pants, he sings to Malone who’s standing at a window in the house. Keaton accidentally knocks down the house. After some set readjustment, Arbuckle kisses Malone. A shot rings out: the strongman fires on Malone. Keaton swings from the stage and drags him down to the stage. The hands try to subdue the man, but it takes a trunk full of weights swung on a rope to knock him out. Later, Arbuckle visits Malone in the hospital. They resume kissing where they left off. — Lisle Foote