The Frozen North

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The Frozen North
The Frozen North (1922) - 2.JPG
Still from the film opening
Directed by Buster Keaton
Edward F. Cline
Produced by Joseph M. Schenck
Written by Buster Keaton
Edward F. Cline
Starring Buster Keaton
Sybil Seely
Cinematography Elgin Lessley
Release date(s)
  • August 28, 1922 (1922-08-28)
Running time 17 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent

The Frozen North is a 1922 American short comedy film directed by and starring Buster Keaton.[1] The film was written by Keaton and Edward F. Cline (credited as Eddie Cline). The film runs for around 17 minutes. Sybil Seely and Bonnie Hill co-star in the film.


The film opens near a subway terminal from which Buster Keaton emerges. He finds people gambling in a house with lots of money. He tries to scare them with the cutout of a poster with a man holding gun. He puts the cutout at the window and says, "Raise your hands in air". But soon they find out when a drunk man falls over the cutout and Buster has to run.

Next, he mistakenly enters a house thinking that its his own house. Inside the house, he sees a man and a woman kissing. He takes her for his wife, gets red hot angry and shoots them both, later to realize his mistake.

He goes to his own house this time to find his irritating wife. Some object hits his yelling wife and she faints. A passing police officer knocks at the door after hearing her scream. Buster saves himself by playing music on gramophone and pretending to dance with his fainted wife. As soon as the officer leaves, he lets the fainted wife fall down and looks out of the window. He discovers a pretty but married neighbor (Bonnie Hill), quickly wears good clothes and takes flowers to her where she imagines him as Erich von Stroheim's character from the film Foolish Wives. The husband of this pretty neighbor comes back and Buster has to run. The rest of the movie is filled with funny situations of him chasing after that pretty neighbor. In the end, he wakes up in the front row of a film theater to realize that it was all a dream.


The film followed Roscoe Arbuckle's arrest for the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe. While studio executives ordered Arbuckle's industry friends and fellow actors (whose careers they controlled) not to publicly speak up for him, Keaton did make a public statement in support of Arbuckle's innocence. However, William S. Hart, who had never met or worked with Arbuckle, made a number of damaging public statements in which he presumed that Arbuckle was guilty. Arbuckle later wrote a premise for a film parodying Hart as a thief, bully and wife beater which Keaton purchased from him. Hart was widely believed in the industry to be "prone to domestic violence" and Keaton believed that Hart was helping to convict Arbuckle. Keaton produced, directed and starred in The Frozen North, the film that resulted.[2][3]

Much of the film is a parody of the film actor William S. Hart. Keaton spoofs Hart's demeanor, wears his hat like Hart and comically attempts Hart's iconic one handed cigarette roll. Keaton spends a lot of time standing and staring to imply Hart's wooden acting, which is reinforced in the scene where he puts a picture of a cowboy in a doorway to dupe gamblers into fighting the picture instead of him, and the image on the picture is Hart. Offended, Hart refused to speak to Keaton for many years.[2][3]

The comedy also briefly parodies Erich von Stroheim's womanizing character from the film Foolish Wives. In contrast to Hart, von Stroheim was delighted with the parody of his character.[2]

Many of the gag sequences from The Frozen North, including the fishing sequence and wearing guitars as snowshoes while carrying a mattress were later used by The Three Stooges in Rockin' thru the Rockies.[2]


Keaton offers flowers to his pretty neighbor (Bonnie Hill).


The film was photographed on location at Donner Lake outside Truckee, California, in mid-winter. Keaton intended the film to be a satirical parody of Western melodramas and their star, William S. Hart. He wears a small version of Hart's campaign hat from the Spanish-American War and a six-shooter on each thigh, and during the scene in which he shoots the neighbor and her husband, he reacts with thick glycerin tears, a trademark of Hart's.[4] Audiences of the 1920s recognized the parody and thought the film hysterically funny. However, Hart himself was not amused by Keaton's antics, particularly the crying scene, and did not speak to Keaton for two years after he had seen the film.[5]

The film's opening intertitles give it its mock-serious tone, and are taken from The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: The Frozen North". Silent Era. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d Neibaur, James (2013). Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts: 1920-1923. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 178 - 186. ISBN 9780810887411. 
  3. ^ a b Meade, Marion (2011). Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase. Chapter 12 "Cops": e-reads. p. un-numbered. ISBN 9781617560743. 
  4. ^ p.23, [1] p.11, p.27
  5. ^ a b Keaton, Eleanor, and Vance, Jeffrey. Buster Keaton Remembered, H.N. Abrams, 2001, p. 95

External links[edit]