Our Hospitality is a silent comedy directed, produced, written by and starring Buster Keaton. Released in 1923 by Metro Pictures Corporation, the movie uses slapstick and situational comedy to tell the story of Willie McKay, a city slicker who gets caught in the middle of the infamous Canfield & McKay feud, an obvious satire of the real-life Hatfield-McCoy feud.
Some exteriors were shot near Truckee, California, and in Oregon. The famous waterfall rescue scene was shot using a special set at Keaton's Hollywood studio.
Keaton set the film in the 1830s so he could indulge his passion for trains by creating a working model of Stephenson's Rocket, an early locomotive. The traveling shots of the locomotive are clear precursors to later work on The General, and were shot in the same Oregon locations.
Actor and Keaton friend Joe Roberts suffered a stroke while making this film, and died of a subsequent stroke shortly after the film's completion.
This is the only film to feature three generations on Keatons. Buster's father plays a train engineer while Buster's infant son plays a baby version of Buster in the film's prologue. Keaton's wife Natalie was pregnant with their second child during filming, and late in the production she had to be filmed to hide her growing size.
One stormy night in 1810, after yet another McKay falls victim to the feud, one of the McKay women decides her son, Willie McKay (Buster Keaton Jr.), will not suffer the same fate. She sends him to New York to live with an aunt, who raises him without telling him of the feud.
Twenty-one years later, Willie (now played by Buster Keaton Sr.) receives a letter informing him his father has passed away. His aunt tells him of the feud, but he decides to return to his birthplace anyway, to claim his father's estate.
On the train ride, he meets a girl, Virginia (played by Keaton's wife, Natalie Talmadge). They are shy to each other at first, but once they arrive (after many train malfunctions), she invites him to dinner at her house. She is greeted by her family, the Canfields. Soon the Canfield paterfamilias knows the young McKay is in town and he's coming to dinner that night. He affirms the blood feud will continue but decrees that McKay must not die in the Canfield house. His sons take this to mean that anywhere beyond the walls of the house McKay is fair game. The father refers to this as "our hospitality", a fictionalized version of the Southern code of hospitality.
Meanwhile, McKay is oblivious to the seriousness of his situation, and manages to dodge bullets without really meaning to. The McKay estate turns out to be perfectly uninhabitable.
Soon after arriving to the Canfield house McKay learns both that he is in the Canfields' house and that they will not kill him inside. A parson comes to visit. After a while, the parson prepares to leave, but opening the door he finds a tremendous downpour of rain outside. The Canfield patriarch insists the parson stay at the house that night. McKay invites himself to stay the night also.
The next morning, McKay does his best to stay inside the house while the Canfield men try to put him out. After the father catches McKay kissing his daughter, McKay decides he can no longer keep trying to stay in the house. He leaves, but putting on a woman's dress first.
He's able to elude the Canfield men all the way to the mountain and the waterfalls. Virginia goes after him and winds up at the edge of the waterfalls. McKay rescues her.
It grows dark and the Canfield men decide they can kill McKay the next day. Back home they find the gun cabinet completely empty, and in another room they see the parson has married Willie and Virginia. The father reluctantly blesses the union and calls off the feud, and then Willie surrenders all the guns he took from the gun cabinet.