Buster Keaton


Actor, Director
Buster Keaton

About

Also Known As
Joseph Frank Keaton
Birth Place
Piqua, Kansas, USA
Born
October 04, 1895
Died
February 01, 1966
Cause of Death
Lung Cancer

Biography

A vaudeville star before the age of 10, Buster Keaton was preparing to make his Broadway debut in 1917 when a meeting with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle changed both the course of his life and the history of cinema forever. Coming into prominence at the same time as Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, Keaton - whose deadpan expressions to the onscreen comic disasters that befell him earned him t...

Photos & Videos

Steamboat Bill, Jr. - Lobby Cards
Go West (1925) - Lobby Card
The Cameraman - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Alice Lake
Companion
Actor. Involved in 1919.
Viola Dana
Companion
Actor. Involved in 1919.
Natalie Talmadge
Wife
Continuity person, actor. Married on May 31, 1921; divorced in 1932; born on April 28, 1897; died on June 19. 1969.
Dorothy Sebastian
Companion
Actor. First met when she starred opposite him in "Spite Marriage"; had on-again, off-agin relationship for close to 10 years (c. 1928-1938).

Bibliography

"Buster Keaton Remembered"
Eleanor Keaton, Jeffrey Vance, and Manoah Bowman, Harry N. Abrams Inc. (2001)
"The Film Career of Buster Keaton"
George Wead and Grorge Lellis, Regrave Publishing Company (1997)
"Buster Keaton: A Bio-Bibliography"
Joanna Rapf and Gary L Green, Greenwood Press (1995)
"Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase"
Marion Meade (1995)

Notes

While his mother gave him the birthname Joseph Frank Keaton, his father later changed it to Joseph Francis Keaton.

When scandal rocked Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's world in 1921, Keaton remained a loyal friend to his mentor. Even though the courts absolved Arbuckle of any wrong doing in Virginia Rappe's death, Hollywood refused to forgive him, but Keaton stood by him, providing periodic financial support until Arbuckle's death from a heart attack in 1933.

Biography

A vaudeville star before the age of 10, Buster Keaton was preparing to make his Broadway debut in 1917 when a meeting with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle changed both the course of his life and the history of cinema forever. Coming into prominence at the same time as Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, Keaton - whose deadpan expressions to the onscreen comic disasters that befell him earned him the sobriquet "The Great Stone Face" - became one of the most popular and successful comic actors of the silent era. In fact, his daring comic stunts, which he performed himself without camera trickery, quickly became the stuff of legend in films like "One Week" (1920), "The Three Ages" (1923), "Sherlock, Jr." (1924) and "The Navigator" (1924). Keaton directed and starred in his greatest achievement, "The General" (1927), which was panned by critics at the time and was a major box office flop, but later gained a reputation for being one of the best films made during the silent era. He made the transition to talkies with "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" (1929), but suffered from bouts of alcoholism and other personal problems that eventually relegated him to little more than a gagman. But Keaton made a resurgence decades later after numerous attempts at a comeback, starring opposite Chaplin in "Limelight" (1952) and becoming a frequent guest star on a several popular shows, which helped keep his name alive and assure his place in cinema history.

Born on Oct. 4, 1895 in Piqua, KS, Keaton was raised by his father, Joseph, and his mother, Myra, both of whom where vaudeville performers. By the age of three, Keaton had joined his mother and father in their traveling show, rechristened The Three Keatons, although keeping him working earned the constant scrutiny of the Gerry Society, the turn-of-the-century child labor authorities. According to legend, the great Harry Houdini, seeing the youngster take a fall down the stairs, remarked, "That's some buster your kid took." True or not, the nickname stuck and Houdini took credit for coining it throughout his life, though other sources indicated actor George Pardey made the comment, as the Keatons had not yet met Houdini. Whatever the origins, the Keatons struggled prior to Buster coming on board, but became a success soon after he joined the show. Tossed about by his father in the most physical of acts, he soon developed a knack for falling coupled with his signature impassivity, a theatrical contrivance - very much in contrast with his off-stage demeanor - which he maintained throughout his life. Keaton worked with his parents nearly 20 years until his father's excessive drinking led to the breakup of the act.

Now on his own, Keaton earned $250 a week in the Broadway show "The Passing Show of 1917," but broke his contract upon meeting Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and appearing in his first film, "The Butcher Boy" (1917). He and Arbuckle became fast friends, though their collaboration was delayed when Keaton was drafted into the army during World War I and was posted in France with the 40th Infantry. Keaton failed to see any action, but suffered an ear infection that permanently damaged his hearing. Upon his return to the States, Keaton resumed his career with Arbuckle and appeared in such silent comedies as "Out West" (1918), "Back Stage" (1918), "The Hayseed" (1919) and "The Garage" (1920). From his first days before Arbuckle's camera, Keaton understood that film demanded a more subtle acting style than had the stage, and in contrast to his fellow performers' extravagance, he was quiet, controlled, unhurried, economical and accurate. When Arbuckle left to make features for Paramount, Keaton took over the company with Joseph Schenck handling the business end of things as he had for Arbuckle.

After appearing in shorts like "One Week" (1920) and "Convict 13" (1920) without Arbuckle, Keaton made his first feature, "The Saphead" (1920), which launched his career and turned him into a star. By this time, he had developed his patented deadpan whenever chaos exploded around him and took to donning his signature pork pie hat that he would wear in most of his films for the rest of his career. As with many top stars of the day, Keaton began directing most of his shorts, including "The Haunted House" (1921), "The Playhouse" (1921), "My Wife's Relations" (1922) and the three-reeled "Daydreams" (1922). He made his feature directing debut with "The Three Ages" (1923), a spoof of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" from 1916 that featured several hilarious site gags, like Keaton being thrown to a friendly lion and manicuring its claws. But the film failed to mark any significant advance over his shorts.

With "Our Hospitality" (1923), a beautiful period piece, Keaton revealed for the first time his love for trains while clearly demonstrating how his work stood apart from the conventions of the period - no wild mugging for the cameras, the use of locations instead of studios sets, minimal title cards, and long shots that proved his extravagant stunts were indeed real. He followed quickly with "Sherlock, Jr." (1924) and "The Navigator" (1924), assuring his place in film history. Keaton's next three films, "Seven Chances" (1925), "Go West" (1925) and "Battling Butler" (1926), were not up to the standards set by his first features, though "Battling Butler" actually out-grossed the more exceptional "The Navigator," and "Seven Chances" boasted time-lapse photography of a puppy growing to become a huge dog, as well as a scene in which Keaton entered a car and promptly exited after the background dissolved to a new location - a bit of movie shorthand greatly appreciated by his audience.

Returning to his love of trains gave Keaton the greatest prop of all for his masterpiece, "The General" (1926), his best film and widely hailed as one of the greatest from the silent era, if not of all time. Set during the Civil War, the feature-length comedy depicted Keaton as a railroad engineer who must save his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) from Union spies. Uncompromising as ever, Keaton refused to use a model for the film's climax, shooting instead at the unheard of cost of $42,000 a real train crashing through a burning bridge; the frame included men on horseback moving on the river bank as proof it was no camera trick. He also performed his own stunts, which included stepping out onto the engine of the speeding train. Following this unprecedented work, Keaton mysteriously tried playing it safe with the disappointing "College" (1927), which he modeled after Harold Lloyd's successful "The Freshman" (1925). But Keaton returned to form with the brilliant "Steamboat Bill Jr." (1928), choreographing its phantasmagoric cyclone sequence as if it were ballet. Though he spun, slid, tumbled and eventually gained flight while apparently solid buildings collapsed and vanished magically, the public failed to appreciate his artistry, and the film was a commercial failure.

Because of the box office failures of "The General" and "Steamboat Bill," Keaton was persuaded by brother-in-law Joseph Schenck to abandon his own studio and join MGM. Both Chaplin and Lloyd urged him not to give up his independence, but family pressure - particularly troubles with his spendthrift wife, Natalie Talmadge - led him to accept $3,000 a week for the new arrangement. The studio insisted on completed, plot-heavy scripts in advance, nixing his proven working method of developing a narrative through improvisation. It was not long before he was drinking heavily. Keaton battled for every gag on "The Cameraman" (1928), a film comparable to his pre-MGM features, and made his final silent - and by general agreement the last authentic Keaton film - "Spite Marriage" (1929), before making the transition to talkies with "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" (1929). But mediocrity soon set in with "Free and Easy" (1930), "Parlor, Bedroom and Bath" (1931), "Speak Easily" (1932) and "The Passionate Plumber" (1932). By 1933, both MGM and his wife had dropped him as a hopeless alcoholic. He retreated to France, where he made "Le roi des Champs-Elyses" (1934), before signing a contract to make two-reelers for Educational Films. After making "Grand Slam Opera" (1936), his favorite short for the company, Educational closed down and Keaton was again set adrift.

Though he was able to control his drinking during his time with Educational, Keaton fell on hard times again and was reduced to working as a gagman for MGM, appearing in the Marx Brothers' "At the Circus" (1939) and "Go West" (1940). In the late 1930s, he directed his final films for MGM - "Life in Sometown, USA" (1938), "Hollywood Handicap" (1938) and "Streamlined Swing" (1938) - before he was hired by Columbia Pictures to make 10 two-reel comedies. He did have something of a triumph with the series debut, "Pest from the West" (1939), which proved he had not yet lost his audience appeal. But by the time he made the last one in the series, "She's Oil Mine" (1941), Keaton vowed to never again make another short. From there, he found some peace in his personal life through his marriage to dancer Eleanor Norris, while professionally he appeared in a few features like "Forever and a Day" (1943), "That's the Spirit" (1945) and "Boom in the Moon" (1946), while making his first appearance at the Cirque Medrano in Paris.

At the end of the decade, Keaton found renewed interest in his forgotten career when a LIFE magazine essay detailed the silent era's classic comedies, featuring his work alongside contemporaries like Chaplin, Lloyd and Harry Langdon. He made a memorable cameo as one of Gloria Swanson's bridge partners in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), before he acted for the first time opposite Chaplin in the classic comedy, "Limelight" (1952). Keaton also began appearing frequently in the new medium of television, where he demonstrated his stunts on shows like "I've Got a Secret" (CBS, 1952-1976) while maintaining interest in his silent films. Though many were considered lost, actor James Mason - who bought the house Keaton built for his first wife - found a treasure trove of canned silent films made by Keaton in a vault and promptly went about preserving them. After an appearance in "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956), Keaton's revival of sorts reached new heights with "The Buster Keaton Story" (1957), which starred Donald O'Connor and allowed the real Keaton to end his perpetual poverty. Two years later, he received an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to film while staying happily married to Eleanor. He lived modestly and worked steadily, earning nearly as much money in the last decade of his life as during his time at the top.

Keaton continued to appear on screens large and small for the next several years, guest starring as a hospital janitor who acts as Santa Claus for sick kids on an episode of "The Donna Reed Show" (ABC, 1958-1966) and playing a lion tamer in his final movie for MGM, an adaptation of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1960). Also that year, he was the mute King Sextimus the Silent in the successful tour of the Broadway hit, "Once Upon a Mattress," and was a time traveler in a partially silent episode of "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964). He maintained a steady presence on television with episodes of the short-lived sitcom "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (ABC, 1962), "The Greatest Show on Earth" (ABC, 1963-64), and "The Lucy Show" (CBS, 1962-68), and had a small role in the ensemble comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963). With his appearance in the 22-minute short movie, "Film" (1965), written by Samuel Beckett, Keaton received a long standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, which allowed the silent comedian to take a final bow in his career. Following his last appearance on film in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966), Keaton died from lung cancer on Feb. 1, 1966 in Woodland Hills, CA. He was 70 years old and left behind a legacy as one of the greatest comics of the silent era, with some critics and filmmakers ranking him higher than Chaplin or Lloyd.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The General (1927)
Director
Battling Butler (1926)
Director
Seven Chances (1925)
Director
Go West (1925)
Director
The Navigator (1924)
Director
Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Director
Three Ages (1923)
Director
Our Hospitality (1923)
Director
The Balloonatic (1923)
Director
Cops (1922)
Director
The Blacksmith (1922)
Director
The Playhouse (1921)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018)
Himself
That's Entertainment! III (1994)
The Three Stooges Follies (1974)
Himself
War Italian Style (1967)
General Von Kassler
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
Erronius
Sergeant Deadhead (1965)
Private Blinken
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965)
Bwana
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Himself
Pajama Party (1964)
Chief Rotten Eagle
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Jimmy the Crook
The Great Chase (1962)
When Comedy Was King (1960)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
Lion tamer
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Train conductor, San Francisco to Ft. Kearney
Limelight (1953)
Calvero's partner
Paradise For Buster (1951)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Himself
You're My Everything (1949)
Butler in movie
In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
Hickey
The Lovable Cheat (1949)
Goulard
God's Country (1946)
Old Tarp
That's the Spirit (1945)
L. M.
That Night with You (1945)
Sam
She Went to the Races (1945)
Bellboy
San Diego, I Love You (1944)
Bus driver
Forever and a Day (1943)
Plumber
El Moderno Barba-Azul (1943)
So You Won't Squawk (1941)
His Ex Marks the Spot (1941)
General Nuisance (1941)
She's Oil Mine (1941)
New Moon (1940)
Bondsman
Li'l Abner (1940)
Lonesome Polecat
The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940)
William Dalton
Pardon My Berth Marks (1940)
The Taming of the Snood (1940)
The Spook Speaks (1940)
Hollywood Cavalcade (1939)
Himself
Nothing But Pleasure (1939)
Moochin' Through Georgia (1939)
Pest From the West (1939)
Ditto (1937)
Love Nest on Wheels (1937)
Three on a Limb (1936)
Grand Slam Opera (1936)
The Chemist (1936)
The Invader (1936)
Mixed Magic (1936)
Jail Bait (1936)
The E-Flat Man (1935)
Palooka From Paducah (1935)
The Timid Young Man (1935)
Hayseed Romance (1935)
One-Run Elmer (1935)
Tars and Stripes (1935)
Allez Oop (1934)
The Gold Ghost (1934)
What--No Beer? (1933)
Elmer J. Butts
Le plombier amoureux (1932)
Speak Easily (1932)
Professor [Timoleon Zanders] Post
The Passionate Plumber (1932)
Elmer [E. Tuttle]
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931)
Reginald Irving
Sidewalks of New York (1931)
[Homer Van Dine] Harmon
Buster se marie (1931)
Reggie Irving
Estrellados (1930)
Canuto Cuadratín
Doughboys (1930)
Elmer Stuyvesant
¡De frente, marchen! (1930)
Canuto de la Montera
Free and Easy (1930)
Elmer Butts
Spite Marriage (1929)
Elmer
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The Cameraman (1928)
Buster
College (1927)
The boy
The General (1927)
Johnnie Gray
Battling Butler (1926)
Alfred Butler
Go West (1925)
Friendless
Seven Chances (1925)
James Shannon
The Navigator (1924)
Buster [The Sap]
Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Sherlock, Jr.
Three Ages (1923)
The Hero
Our Hospitality (1923)
William McKay
The Balloonatic (1923)
Cops (1922)
The Blacksmith (1922)
The Playhouse (1921)
The Saphead (1920)
Bertie Van Alstyne
Back Stage (1919)
Love (1919)
Out West (1918)
The Cook (1918)
Moonshine (1918)
The Bell Boy (1918)
Good Night Nurse (1918)
The Rough House (1917)
Oh, Doctor! (1917)
A Reckless Romeo (1917)
A Country Hero (1917)
His Wedding Night (1917)
Coney Island (1917)

Writer (Feature Film)

The Bachelor (1999)
Story By
The Jones Family in Hollywood (1939)
Original Story
The Jones Family in Quick Millions (1939)
Original Story
The General (1927)
Writer
Go West (1925)
Story
The Balloonatic (1923)
Screenplay
The Blacksmith (1922)
Screenplay
Cops (1922)
Screenplay
The Playhouse (1921)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Le plombier amoureux (1932)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

The Playhouse (1921)
Film Editor

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

The Buster Keaton Story (1957)
Technical Advisor
I Dood It (1943)
Tech adv on comedy seq
Slightly Dangerous (1943)
Comedy adv

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Le plombier amoureux (1932)
Company
The Passionate Plumber (1932)
Company
Speak Easily (1932)
Company
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931)
Company
Sidewalks of New York (1931)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1954)

Misc. Crew (Special)

Buster Keaton: So Funny It Hurt! (2004)
Archival Footage

Director (Short)

Hollywood Handicap (1938)
Director
Life in Sometown, U.S.A. (1938)
Director
The Love Nest (1923)
Director
The Frozen North (1922)
Director
Daydreams (1922)
Director
My Wife's Relations (1922)
Director
Haunted House (1921)
Director
Neighbors (1921)
Director
The High Sign (1921)
Director
Hard Luck (1921)
Director
The Goat (1921)
Director
The Boat (1921)
Director
One Week (1920)
Director
Convict 13 (1920)
Director

Cast (Short)

Hollywood Hobbies (1939)
Himself
Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs (1936)
Himself
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935)
Himself
The Love Nest (1923)
Character Studies (1923)
My Wife's Relations (1922)
Daydreams (1922)
The Frozen North (1922)
Hard Luck (1921)
Haunted House (1921)
The High Sign (1921)
Neighbors (1921)
The Boat (1921)
The Goat (1921)
Convict 13 (1920)
The Garage (1920)
One Week (1920)
The Butcher Boy (1917)

Writer (Short)

The Love Nest (1923)
Writer
My Wife's Relations (1922)
Writer
The Frozen North (1922)
Writer
Daydreams (1922)
Writer
Hard Luck (1921)
Writer
The Goat (1921)
Writer
The Boat (1921)
Writer
Neighbors (1921)
Writer
The High Sign (1921)
Writer
Haunted House (1921)
Writer
Convict 13 (1920)
Writer
One Week (1920)
Writer (Uncredited)

Editing (Short)

One Week (1920)
Editor

Life Events

1900

"Official" professional debut, October 17 at Dockstader's Theatre, Wilmington, Delaware

1900

The Three Keatons traveled widely, appearing all over the USA and becoming headliners in NYC; from the beginning Buster was the star of the act

1909

Keaton family made a brief trip to Europe, during which they played London's Palace

1917

Father's drinking led to break-up of the act

1917

Accepted a part in the Broadway show "The Passing Show of 1917" at $250 a week but broke contract after meeting Rosco 'Fatty' Arbuckle and appearing in his first film

1917

First short film as actor, "The Butcher Boy", written and directed by Arbuckle

1920

Played a straight role in his first feature, "The Saphead"; made on loan to Metro Pictures

1920

Took over Joseph Schenck's Comique Films (formerly headed by Arbuckle)

1920

First short film as director, "The High Sign" (shelved and not released until 1921)

1920

First released short film as director, "One Week"; co-helmed with Eddie Cline

1921

With Cline, co-wrote and co-directedthe two-reeler "The Playhouse", a special effects tour de force in which he appeared on screen simultaneously nine times, even performing a dance with himself

1922

Comique Films name changed to Buster Keaton Productions (though Schenck still owned it)

1923

Completed first feature comedy, "The Three Ages", a spoof of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" (1916)

1924

Released "Sherlock Jr" and "The Navigator"; the former considered by many as one of (if not) his finest films

1926

His best-known film "The General" opened to unfavorable critical response

1928

Last film released under the umbrella of "Buster Keaton Productions", "Steamboat Bill Jr"

1928

Signed contract with MGM

1928

First picture for MGM, "The Cameraman", well up to the standard of his best independent features

1929

Last silent feature, "Spite Marriage"

1929

Made first talking film as actor "The Hollywood Revue of 1929"

1933

MGM contract terminated

1934

Made French film, "Le roi des Champs-Elyses"; never released in USA

1934

Signed contract with Educational Films for two-reelers

1936

Made "Grand Slam Opera", his favorite short for Educational

1937

Educational Films closed down

1937

Signed contract with MGM as gagman only

1938

Last directing assignments, three single-reelers for MGM ("Life in Sometown, USA", "Hollywood Handicap", "Streamlined Swing")

1939

Signed contract with Columbia; made 10 shorts over the next two years

1941

Toured USA in detective play, "The Gorilla"

1947

First appearance at Cirque Medrano, Paris (as Malec)

1949

Made TV debut re-enacting a scene from "The Butcher Boy" on "The Ed Wynn Show" (CBS)

1949

James Agee's essay in LIFE sparked renewed interest in silent films, particualrly the work of Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon

1950

Appeared as himself in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard"

1952

Acted in Chaplin's "Limelight" (only time the two appeared together)

1955

Met businessman Raymond Rohaurer who would pull together a collection of prints of Keaton's silent films

1955

Actor James Mason, then-owner of the villa Keaton had built for former wife Natalie Talmadge in 1925, discovered a cache of film cans in a locked vault in a gardner's shed which contained prints of all of Keaton's silent features and many of his short comedies too, a veritable treasure trove from which Rohaure could begin his work

1956

Appeared in Michael Anderson's "Around the World in 80 Days"

1957

Paramount released "The Buster Keaton Story", starring Donald O'Connor

1959

Awarded a special Oscar for "his unique talents which brought immortal comedies to the screen"

1963

Acted in Stanley Kramer's "It a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

1965

Received standing ovation as special guest at the Venice Film Festival where "Film", a 22-minte short written for him by Samuel Beckett, premiered

1966

Last film appearances (excluding archival footage) in Richard Lester's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and Luigi Scattini's "War Italian Style" (released in the USA in 1967)

1987

Last film unearthed and restored by Rohaurer (with Kevin Brownlow), the 1921 short "Hard Luck", premiered at London's Palladium

Photo Collections

Steamboat Bill, Jr. - Lobby Cards
Steamboat Bill, Jr. - Lobby Cards
Go West (1925) - Lobby Card
Go West (1925) - Lobby Card
The Cameraman - Publicity Stills
Here are some Publicity Stills from The Cameraman (1928), starring Buster Keaton. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Our Hospitality - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Our Hospitality (1923), starring Buster Keaton. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
In the Good Old Summertime - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from MGM's In the Good Old Summertime (1949), starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson.
College - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Buster Keaton's College (1927). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Buster Keaton - 1928 Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills taken of MGM contract star Buster Keaton, seen at home during the 1928 holidays.

Videos

Movie Clip

General, The (1927) - Fort Sumter Has Been Fired Upon! From the top, Buster Keaton introduces himself, as Civil War-era Georgia engineer Johnnie, his beloved train and his girlfriend Annabelle (Marion Mack), then her father (Charles Smith) and fervent brother (Frank Barnes), in a historic moment, in The General, 1927.
General, The (1927) - Cannon Engineer Johnnie (director and star Buster Keaton) has hijacked a cannon, which gives him problems, as he chases the Yankees who've stolen his locomotive, in The General, 1927.
General, The (1927) - Nothing On Earth Can Stop Us Stuck behind Union lines having recklessly pursued his girlfriend (Marion Mack) and the stolen train on which she rode, engineer Johnnie (un-credited writer, director and star Buster Keaton) learns of the enemy’s alarming plans, in The General, 1927.
General, The (1927) - Big Shanty Johnnie (director and star Buster Keaton) gets his train stolen by Yankee spies, his ex-girl Annabelle (Marion Mack) aboard, and gives chase, in Keaton's 1927 masterpiece The General.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - Shadow Your Man Closely Rejected as a thief by the father of now-dejected "Girl" (Kathryn McGuire), the hero (director and star Buster Keaton) follows his mail-order detective's handbook and his suspect (Ward Crane, who in fact framed him) in Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - Be Careful! Still immersed in his movie-based dream, the projectionist/hero (director Buster Keaton, as the title character) stays calm under pressure as he flees villains and gets an unexpected assist from his real-life boss and fantasy-assistant (Ford West) in Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - I Never Thought You'd Make It! Continuing the famous chase sequence, still in the imaginary movie into-which he's dreamed himself, star and director Buster Keaton as the title character is more alone than he realizes, in Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - Opening, Old Proverb The opening sequence introduces the title character's real-life persona, his boss (Ford West) and "the girl" (Kathryn McGuire), the premise behind the title still to be revealed, in Buster Keaton's action-fantasy-comedy Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - The Crime-Crushing Criminologist Buster Keaton appears in his second role as the title character, in the movie into which he's dreamed himself, and in which his girl and his rival (Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane), now appear, in the acclaimed silent comedy Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) - Hearts And Pearls Exhausted and frustrated with his amateur detective efforts, the hero dozes off at work in the projection room and dreams himself into a movie called Hearts And Pearls, executing one of director and star Buster Keaton's more transcendent ideas, in Sherlock Jr., 1924.
Battling Butler (1926) - Go Out And Rough It Opening with his parents and valet (Snitz Edwards), director Buster Keaton is affluent milquetoast Alfred Butler, who agrees that camping might toughen him up, in Battling Butler, 1926, produced Joseph Schenck, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn, exteriors shot at the Talmadge on Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
Battling Butler (1926) - A Little Road Work In a panic to prevent his new wife (Sally O’Neil) realizing he’s not the lightweight champ boxer (Francis McDonald) who borrowed his name, Alfred “Battling” Butler (director and star Buster Keaton), aided by his valet (Snitz Edwards) contrives to act like he’s training with the real crew, in Battling Butler, 1926.

Trailer

Great Buster: A Celebration,The (2018) -- Original Trailer Trailer for the award-winning original documentary on Buster Keaton by Peter Bogdanovich, The Great Buster: A Celebration, 2018, with commentary from Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Richard Lewis, Werner Herzog and many more.
Beach Blanket Bingo - (Original Trailer) Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello play Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) with guest appearances by Paul Lynde, Don Rickles and Buster Keaton.
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini - (Original Trailer) White witch doctor Buster Keaton teaches the Beach Party gang How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).
She Went To The Races - (Original Trailer) A pretty scientist (Frances Gifford) with a system for horse-race betting falls in love with a trainer in She Went To The Races (1945).
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A -- (Original Trailer) A madcap musical set in ancient Rome starring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Michael Crawford and silent era comic Buster Keaton in a cameo appearance.
Slightly Dangerous - (Original Trailer) Lana Turner changes her identity to make it in New York, leaving Robert Young a suspect in her "disappearance" in the comedy Slightly Dangerous (1943).
New Moon - (Original Trailer) Nelson Eddy is looking for some stout-hearted men in the operetta New Moon (1940) co-starring Jeanette MacDonald.
Pajama Party - (Original Trailer) Tom Kirk comes from Mars to lead an invasion and lands in the middle of a Pajama Party (1964) with guest appearances by Elsa Lanchester and Buster Keaton.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The (1960) - (Original Trailer) Boxing champion Archie Moore plays Jim, the runaway slave, in this widescreen, color adaptation of the Mark Twain classic.
Around the World in 80 Days - (Wide Release Trailer) A Victorian gentleman (David Niven) bets that he can beat the world's record for circling the globe in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
In the Good Old Summertime - (Original Trailer) Feuding co-workers in a small music shop do not realize they are secret romantic pen pals in In the Good Old Summertime (1949) starring Judy Garland.

Promo

Family

Myra Cutler Keaton
Mother
Actor. Born in March 1877 in Modale, Iowa; died on July 21, 1955 in Los Angeles, California; appeared in some of Keaton's films.
Joseph Hallie Keaton
Father
Actor. Born in 1867 in Terre Haute, Indiana; died on January 13, 1946 in Los Angeles, California; appeared in some of Keaton's films.
Harry Stanley Keaton
Brother
Actor. Born on August 25, 1904; died in May 1988 in San Ysidro, California.
Louise Dresser Keaton
Sister
Actor. Born on October 30, 1906; died of lung cnacer on February 18, 1981 in Van Nuys, California.
Joseph Keaton
Son
Born on June 2, 1922; mother, Natalie Talmadge; legally changed surname to Talmadge in 1934.
Robert Keaton
Son
Born on February 3, 1924; surname legally changed to Talmadge in 1934.

Companions

Alice Lake
Companion
Actor. Involved in 1919.
Viola Dana
Companion
Actor. Involved in 1919.
Natalie Talmadge
Wife
Continuity person, actor. Married on May 31, 1921; divorced in 1932; born on April 28, 1897; died on June 19. 1969.
Dorothy Sebastian
Companion
Actor. First met when she starred opposite him in "Spite Marriage"; had on-again, off-agin relationship for close to 10 years (c. 1928-1938).
Mae Elizabeth Scriven
Wife
Nurse, hairstylist, playwright. Reportedly married on January 1, 1932 in Mexico although no record could be found; marriage not legal as Keaton's divorce was not final; legally married in 1933; divorced in 1935; born in 1905; had previously been married and divorced; alcoholic; went on to marry and divorce at least two more times; was also romantically involved with publicist Sam Fuller; was committed for psychiatric evaluation on and off in the 1950s.
Marilyn Stuart
Companion
Showgirl. Involved in 1935.
Eleanor Ruth Norris
Wife
Dancer. Met in 1938; married in 1940; survived him; born on July 19, 1918; died on October 19, 1998 at age 80.

Bibliography

"Buster Keaton Remembered"
Eleanor Keaton, Jeffrey Vance, and Manoah Bowman, Harry N. Abrams Inc. (2001)
"The Film Career of Buster Keaton"
George Wead and Grorge Lellis, Regrave Publishing Company (1997)
"Buster Keaton: A Bio-Bibliography"
Joanna Rapf and Gary L Green, Greenwood Press (1995)
"Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase"
Marion Meade (1995)
"The Complete Films of Buster Keaton"
Jim Kline, Citadel Press (1993)
"Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down"
Tom Dardis, Scribner (1979)
"Keaton: The Silent Features Up Close"
Daniel Moews, Citadel Press (1977)
"The Silent Clowns"
Walter Kerr, Alfred A. Knopf (1975)
"Buster Keaton"
David Robinson, Indiana University Press (1969)
"Buster Keaton"
J.P. Lebel; translated by P.D. Stovin, Zwemmer Books (1967)
"My Wonderful World of Slapstick"
Buster Keaton with Charles Samuels, Doubleday (1960)

Notes

While his mother gave him the birthname Joseph Frank Keaton, his father later changed it to Joseph Francis Keaton.

When scandal rocked Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's world in 1921, Keaton remained a loyal friend to his mentor. Even though the courts absolved Arbuckle of any wrong doing in Virginia Rappe's death, Hollywood refused to forgive him, but Keaton stood by him, providing periodic financial support until Arbuckle's death from a heart attack in 1933.

"My old man was an eccentric comic and as soon as I could take care of myself at all on my feet, he had slapshoes on me and big baggy pants. And he'd just start doing gags with me and especially kickin' me clear across the stage or taking me by the back of the neck and throwing me. By the time I got to be around seven or eight years old, we were called 'The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage'" --Buster Keaton

"We used to get arrested every other week--that is, the old man would get arrested. Once they took me to the mayor of New York City, into his private office, with city physicians . . . and they stripped me to examine for broken bones and bruises. Finding none, the mayor gave me permission to work. The next time it happened, the following year, they sent me to Albany, to the governor of the state." --Buster Keaton (From "The Buster Keaton Myths", by Patricia Eliot Tobias in CLASSIC IMAGES)

"One of the first things I noticed was that whenever I smiled or let the audience suspect how much I was enjoying myself they didn't seem to laugh as much as usual. I guess people just never do expect any human mop, dishrag, beanbag, or football to be pleased by what is being done to him. At any rate, it was on purpose that I started looking miserable, humiliated, hounded and haunted, bedeviled, bewildered and at my wit's end." --Buster Keaton

"I think I have had the happiest and luckiest of lives. Maybe this is because I never expected as much as I got . . . And when the knocks came, I felt it was no surprise. I had always known life was like that, full of uppercuts for the deserving and undeserving alike." --Buster Keaton

The official website devoted to him can be accessed at www.busterkeaton.com