Spite Marriage

Release date: April 6, 1929
Length: Nine reels
A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Production
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Producer: Edward M. Sedgwick
Director: Edward M. Sedgwick
Production Supervisor: Larence Weingarten
Script: Lew Lipton and Ernest S. Pagano
Continuity: Richard Schayer
Title: Robert Hopkins
Photography: Reggie Lanning
Editor: Frank Sullivan
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons

Buster Keaton: Elmer Edgemont
Dorothy Sebastian: Trilby Drew
Edward Earle: Lionel Denmore
Leila Hyams: Ethyl Norcrosse
William Bechtel: Frederick Nussbaum
John Byron: Giovanni Scarzi
Hank Mann: Stage Manager
Pat Harmon: Ship Captain

Elmer, a dedicated fan, follows actress Trilby Drew everywhere, including parties and the park, but eventually he must return to his day job as a pants presser. Naturally he hasn’t missed any of her performances in the play Carolina; this evening he’s the first through the door. Trilby’s boyfriend also has an admirer, a blonde named Ethyl. The performance commences, and Trilby and Lionel milk the Southern melodrama for all it’s worth as Elmer watches appreciatively. Afterwards, Trilby is scorned by Lionel in favor of the blonde, so at the stage door she takes Elmer’s arm and allows him to escort her to her taxi.

The next night, Elmer goes backstage with flowers. He’s too shy to present them himself, so the stage manager takes them in. Elmer runs into an extra who gets to steal a kiss from Trilby in the play, and he wishes aloud that he could play his part. He gets his wish when a cop comes looking for the extra, who runs out the window. He has some difficulties sticking on false facial hair, and his performance is equally disastrous: it’s a burlesque of the previous night. He doesn’t even get his kiss. The manager and the crew come after him, but he quickly changes into evening clothes and they don’t recognize him. Meanwhile, Trilby gets the news that Lionel and Ethyl are engaged. Elmer is handy, so she asks him to marry her.

Later, after the ceremony, they arrive at the hotel. Trilby still pines for Lionel and she screams at Elmer’s touch. They go out to Café La Boheme, where she seethes at the sight of Lionel and Ethyl together. She gets drunk on champagne. Elmer hauls her back to the hotel and struggles to put his unconscious wife to bed.

At the hotel the next morning, Trilby’s manager explains to her that her career will be ruined if anyone finds out about her marriage to a pants presser. She agrees and leaves. Lionel and the manager stay to break the news to Elmer. Broken hearted, Elmer leaves, pausing only to slug Lionel outside. Cops chase him and he hops into a moving car – joining a robber, who’s in the middle of a shootout with the police. The crook joins his gang at the docks, and they force Elmer to come along. That evening, he goes overboard and a private yacht picks him up. He joins the crew.

The next day, while he’s varnishing a mast, Elmer sees Lionel and Trilby on board. He asks to work below deck. That evening while he’s minding the engine room, a fire starts. Everyone but Elmer and Trilby evacuate. Elmer puts out the fire with seawater, then bails out the room.

He finishes the job the next morning, just in time to deal with a squall. Trilby goes overboard, but Elmer saves her. On the following day, the criminals board the yacht and Elmer tries to conceal Trilby, to no avail. He must knock out all of the gang and fight the ringleader, but he saves the day. He’s her hero.

They get rescued, the criminals are hauled off to justice, and Elmer drops Trilby off at her hotel. But she won’t let him leave, and they go in together. — Lisle Foote