Buster Keaton

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When did the deadpan master shine most brightly?

Poll Results

The General 4
Cops 3
Sherlock Junior 3
Steamboat Bill, Jr. 3
The Cameraman3
One Week 1
The Navigator 1
Our Hospitality 0
College 0

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 5 April 2007 20:04 (twelve years ago) link

ooh this one's tough

ghost rider, Thursday, 5 April 2007 20:06 (twelve years ago) link

I think we might get 3 votes on this.

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 5 April 2007 21:40 (twelve years ago) link

you forgot A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

gabbneb, Thursday, 5 April 2007 21:43 (twelve years ago) link

Steamboat Bill, Jr

The Great Stoneface was never stonier than when hearing William Holden's voice-over refer to him as a "waxwork" in Sunset Boulevard.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 5 April 2007 21:59 (twelve years ago) link

I love Steambot Bill, Jr. Most laffs (esp. when he tries to bring his dad the bread full of tools). It also fits into this weird theme I appreciate of endings that are just WEATHER APOCALYPSE, the whole last third of the damn thing is a hurricane.

One Week's got great visuals.

I could never see why everyone praised THE GENERAL quite as highly as they did.

I also don't see why his films cost so much----Kino's transfers are not exactly spectacular but they want you to shill out $25, wtf? Shouldn't they be out of copyright by now?

Abbott, Thursday, 5 April 2007 22:25 (twelve years ago) link

You forgot Film.

Aren't some of them available on archive.org? I thought at least One Week was (that's the house one, right?) (not to give away my vote) (oops!).

Casuistry, Friday, 6 April 2007 02:16 (twelve years ago) link

hahah film otm

i voted for steamboat bill, jr. 'cause someone's got to.

ghost rider, Friday, 6 April 2007 06:38 (twelve years ago) link

well, that looks pretty representative. The Cameraman really isn't "his" movie as much as the others but it gets shown a lot.

Dr Morbius, Monday, 16 April 2007 15:22 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

If you're a fan who doesn't own The General, you should get the new Kino edition, struck from a camera negative. Clarity is amazing.


(there really isn't much to the bonus disc, tho)

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 11 November 2008 17:44 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

Steamboat Bill, Jr. out today on Blu-Ray and standard 2-disc editions.

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 6 July 2010 14:53 (nine years ago) link

does anyone else find 'the general' to be a little underwhelming? it looks great but i've never really found most of it very funny -- buster's picture of himself with his train excepted.

'sherlock jr' is fantastic, though, and hilarious pretty much all the way through.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 14 July 2010 17:21 (nine years ago) link

i haven't watched 'the general' in years, but yeah i don't remember it being all that lol...but like more amazing in terms of inventive, intricately timed visual pieces. something like how playtime isn't particularly lol but really cool ne how like miley's upcoming vid

dell (del), Wednesday, 14 July 2010 17:35 (nine years ago) link

The General, and several more classically Busteresque features, are more astonishing than funny, esp on a theater screen.

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 14 July 2010 19:52 (nine years ago) link

I think my favorite thing ever written about "The General" was a story about some French writer who said that Buster Keaton's intense desire to film in authentic Civil War battle sites led him to make the movie in Orgeon.

could be a bad day for (Abbott), Wednesday, 14 July 2010 19:59 (nine years ago) link

one month passes...

After six years of knowing my husband I figured it was an OK time to try & get him into Buster Keaton. He clearly was not. into. it. I don't think it helped that every time I laughed I would follow it with some smug statement like "ah...true genius" or a trivia about how Buster did that thing. (The film was "Sherlock Jr." btw.)

Abbbottt, Thursday, 19 August 2010 04:36 (nine years ago) link

maybe he's more of a chaplin guy?

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:23 (nine years ago) link

or Harold Lloyd?

The Redd, The Blecch & Other Things (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:25 (nine years ago) link

If you can't like Sherlock Jr. on any level I don't know what to tell ya.

albino python on cocaine (corey), Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:26 (nine years ago) link

Yeah we had watched a Harold Lloyd movie w/some success with my brother & his wife back in May, which I think was the trigger for me thinking this could work. OTOH he had been trapped a week with my Mormon family & no entertainment except a very shitty airport book about a megalodon, so maybe the laughter there was just from being shown any entertainment at all.

My brother, and his wife, didn't like Keaton either, but they'd only seen "College" so I was blaming it on that.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:31 (nine years ago) link

College is really not that good, but man, the movie theater scene in Sherlock, the pool-playing sequence, the motorcycle, the stunts! Just one amazing bit after another. Incredibly condensed genius.

albino python on cocaine (corey), Friday, 20 August 2010 03:04 (nine years ago) link

I'd never really truly forgotten, but rewatching Shrelock Jr. also reminded me that he's like my all-time best looking guy.

full of country goodness and green pea-ness (Abbbottt), Friday, 20 August 2010 03:04 (nine years ago) link

just for a harold lloyd derail, seeing 'safety last' in a screening room full of jaded students, pretty much all of whom were delirious with joy by the end, remains one of my all-time-favourite moviegoing experiences.

(also: the original 'to be or not to be' in a crowded, uproarious left bank paris theater)

the disappearance of apollo creed (s1ocki), Friday, 20 August 2010 03:18 (nine years ago) link

nine months pass...

"It's hard to think of another creator of mass entertainment who has been such an inspiration to artists (a word he refused to apply to himself) — including Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel, and Samuel Beckett — yet cared only for making people laugh."


the gay bloggers are onto the faggot tweets (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 May 2011 04:12 (eight years ago) link

FYI, if you are in NYC the Film Forum is having a Keaton series over the next few Mondays.

MrDasher, Friday, 27 May 2011 14:00 (eight years ago) link

I have all those at home, of course

planning to visit his grave this summer tho

the gay bloggers are onto the faggot tweets (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 May 2011 14:12 (eight years ago) link

college was just being watched by me via streaming netflix yesterday - as HE predicted would one day happen

Latham Green, Friday, 27 May 2011 16:14 (eight years ago) link

I like him in the movies he did with Fatty Arbuckle.

MrDasher, Friday, 27 May 2011 16:16 (eight years ago) link

yeah, he even smiles a few times.

the gay bloggers are onto the faggot tweets (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 May 2011 16:25 (eight years ago) link

in those days no one was ashamed to be fat - they hailed it as a crowning victory! You would never see a "Fatty Rosseane Barr" today - instead they take a vacuum cleaner to their thighs

Latham Green, Friday, 27 May 2011 17:14 (eight years ago) link

my scholarly silent-comedy friends refer to Arbuckle as "Roscoe"

the gay bloggers are onto the faggot tweets (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 May 2011 17:21 (eight years ago) link

there was also a crude but hilarious silent trio known as both Ton o' Fun and The Three Fatties

the gay bloggers are onto the faggot tweets (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 May 2011 17:22 (eight years ago) link

and lest we forget laurel and hardy. They should be on our money. not Tommie Jefferson

Latham Green, Friday, 27 May 2011 17:26 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

so Kino has remastered the silent starring shorts and put em out on DVD and Bluray:


incredibly middlebrow (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 18 August 2011 15:23 (eight years ago) link

Are any of these not in the box set? I think all of the titles I saw in that article are.

bamcquern, Thursday, 18 August 2011 15:42 (eight years ago) link

yes, they are, but they look (a little bit) better now, with some new music. The supplements are new.

incredibly middlebrow (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 18 August 2011 15:46 (eight years ago) link

they've been doing the same thing w/ the features for awhile.

The John Bengtson book Silent Echoes is a must for buffs --- tracing BK's shooting locations in LA by frame analysis.

incredibly middlebrow (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 18 August 2011 16:08 (eight years ago) link

Sherlock Jr. is number one and the best, of course, but I have a soft spot for The Navigator - the his reaction to the coffee the girl makes with sea water is one of my favorite moments from his entire canon. also I find the term "sea tuxedos" endlessly amusing.

the tingly effervesence of a thousand tiny butterfly farts (jamescobo), Thursday, 18 August 2011 19:21 (eight years ago) link

eleven months pass...

is Buster's appeal/iconic stature fading, and is that why Sarris checked out?


Pangborn to be Wilde (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 15 August 2012 18:12 (seven years ago) link

three months pass...
five months pass...

Mother Keaton's vaudeville scrapbook now online via the Academy


ballin' from Maine to Mexico (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 1 June 2013 03:49 (six years ago) link

wtf zero votes for "Our Hospitality"? That is clearly the funniest.

the strange and important sound of the synthesizer (Treeship), Saturday, 1 June 2013 03:55 (six years ago) link

it's up there.

i stan for the navigator.

flesh, the devil, and a wolf (wolf) (amateurist), Saturday, 1 June 2013 04:56 (six years ago) link

wow, morbz, that's amazing, thank you!

flesh, the devil, and a wolf (wolf) (amateurist), Saturday, 1 June 2013 05:01 (six years ago) link

Fantastic link; cheers.

etc, Saturday, 1 June 2013 11:21 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

I just watched 'Our Hospitality'. No one put his body on the line for his art like BK.

cajunsunday, Monday, 24 June 2013 11:47 (six years ago) link

Chan has been injured frequently when attempting stunts; many of them have been shown as outtakes or as bloopers during the closing credits of his films. He came closest to death filming Armour of God, when he fell from a tree and fractured his skull. Over the years, Chan has dislocated his pelvis and also broken numerous parts of body including his fingers, toes, nose, both cheekbones, hips, sternum, neck, ankle, and ribs.

Ward Fowler, Monday, 24 June 2013 11:52 (six years ago) link

he's Keaton's closest match, p much, but yes had bigger medical bills.

ballin' from Maine to Mexico (Dr Morbius), Monday, 24 June 2013 11:55 (six years ago) link

Wow. How is he still alive?

cajunsunday, Monday, 24 June 2013 12:04 (six years ago) link

unfortunately he died in 1966 :[

daft on the causes of punk (schlump), Monday, 24 June 2013 20:32 (six years ago) link

Watched Playtime on New year's as part of that season.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 6 January 2014 21:52 (five years ago) link

three months pass...

Sherlock Jr. in the spotlight this week at The Dissolve.


images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:37 (five years ago) link

two months pass...
eleven months pass...

on the lost years, alcohol, and old age

Between jobs during this bleak period in the 1930s, he was taking pratfalls on the streets for cash and drinking with tramps. In another sanatorium, he was subjected to “a reasonable facsimile” of the Keeley Cure: “Nurses and doctors do nothing but pour liquor into you, giving you a drink every half-hour on the half-hour. You get your favorite snort all right, but never twice in a row. Instead they start you off with whiskey and on succeeding rounds give you gin, rum, beer, brandy, wine—before they get around to the whiskey again. … When you plead, ‘Oh, no! Take it away please!’ all you get from your bartenders and barmaids in white coats is a friendly smile. ‘Please take it away,’ you repeat, ‘it hurts my stomach.’ ‘Just one more,’ they say, for their purpose is to make the hurt in your stomach grow until it becomes unforgettable.” There’s a blackly comic rhythm to this episode of aversion therapy that’s uncannily close to the circumstances in some of his films....


the increasing costive borborygmi (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 16 June 2015 15:55 (four years ago) link

Beckett once received a request for permission to mount a Broadway production of Waiting for Godot where Marlon Brando would play Estragon and Keaton undertake the role of Vladimir. Nothing came of it. Keaton would have made a brilliant Lucky, the terrified serf whose role is almost entirely mute.

tender is the late-night daypart (schlump), Tuesday, 16 June 2015 16:04 (four years ago) link

four months pass...

online for the first time


skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Friday, 13 November 2015 18:45 (four years ago) link

What's the YT, Dr Morbius? In China, hence blocked ...

Also, for some Keaton restoration sausage-making/drama, Cineteca di Bologna v. Lobster films

etc, Saturday, 28 November 2015 19:31 (four years ago) link

just a thing on his philosophy of gag construction

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 28 November 2015 19:32 (four years ago) link

Tony Zhou's a dork.

bamcquern, Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:14 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

RIP Buster, 50 years today

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Monday, 1 February 2016 17:27 (three years ago) link

RIP. At least he didn't suffer the indignity of being upstaged by a groundhog.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Monday, 1 February 2016 17:29 (three years ago) link

Crazy. I watched a 3 part docu on Keaton just yesterday as an introduction ( yeah - i've never watched anything of his ) and am now a fan. Had no idea it's been 50 years this week.

Keaton is The Stones to Chaplin's Beatles ( with Harold Lloyd as The Kinks). I'm a Stones guy.

Acid Hose (Capitaine Jay Vee), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 01:26 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

new Kino collection of the 16 talkie shorts made at the Educational studio. They're pretty sad...



we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 4 May 2016 15:16 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

I made a poorly edited little informational movie about Buster Keaton; the first video I have ever made.


the lava-staring club (Abbott), Tuesday, 23 August 2016 03:10 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

there's a japanese busterkeatonbot on twitter also: https://twitter.com/busterpic_bot

quality is random but his fizzog generally makes a nice change from whatever's on the rest of the timeline at that moment

mark s, Tuesday, 4 October 2016 16:05 (three years ago) link

anyway happy 121st birthday BK

mark s, Tuesday, 4 October 2016 17:08 (three years ago) link

five months pass...

if you aint had the pleasure


Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 21 March 2017 20:20 (two years ago) link

one of the coolest nights ever was going to see The General performed with live organist accompaniment at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. the organ rises out of the floor. it was amazing.

AdamVania (Adam Bruneau), Tuesday, 21 March 2017 22:10 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

a gravestone for dad


the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Monday, 7 May 2018 18:47 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

Chapter 1 of a new book: "Buster Keaton's Climate Change," on STEAMBOAT BILL JR.


the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 13 June 2018 22:01 (one year ago) link

attention, LA, it's Keaton Weekend. Alas many events are full.


the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Friday, 15 June 2018 15:39 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

A friend mentioned this and I hadn't heard -- Peter Bogdanovich has made a feature doc about Keaton, The Great Buster, which showed in Venice. Early word is not the greatest! But I suppose I'll eventually want to hear what Dick van Dyke and, uh, Johnny Knoxville have to say...


a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 10 September 2018 17:15 (one year ago) link

I suppose I'll eventually want to hear what Dick van Dyke and, uh, Johnny Knoxville have to say...

Coincidentally, Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson covered The General in their new podcast about the AFI top 100 list, and their interview segment that week was with Jackass director Jeff Tremaine.

I Never Promised You A Hose Harden (Eric H.), Monday, 10 September 2018 17:36 (one year ago) link

three weeks pass...

it's his 123rd

A scantily clad, beer-gutted Buster Keaton, later in life, surveys with pleasure (?) his Lionel train set. pic.twitter.com/ghfoDqRMVO

— 𝕿𝖗𝖔𝖚𝖇𝖑𝖊 𝕰𝖛𝖊𝖗𝖞 𝕯𝖆𝖞 (@NickPinkerton) October 4, 2018

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 4 October 2018 19:15 (one year ago) link

Just bought three Kino Blu-Rays of Keaton stuff: 2-disc sets containing The General and Three Ages and Steamboat Bill Jr. and College, and a 5-disc set containing all his shorts, including the early ones with Fatty Arbuckle. I watched One Week earlier today and laughed my ass off.

grawlix (unperson), Friday, 5 October 2018 00:27 (one year ago) link

I just watched the Kino The General last night. I've seen that movie 5 times at least and still find it astonishing.

jmm, Friday, 5 October 2018 00:34 (one year ago) link

Was watching the Criterion commentary for It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World yesterday. Don't think I even noticed Keaton the first time around - think the movie's sledgehammer approach to comedy had already defeated me by then - but once you notice it's him it's amazing how all that grace is still there, for the two seconds that he is onscreen.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:40 (one year ago) link

I love ‘One Week’ - usually what I show to sceptics/young people.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Friday, 5 October 2018 11:46 (one year ago) link

yeah, when he scoots around those cars it couldn't be anyone else xp

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 5 October 2018 12:00 (one year ago) link

AFI Silver's 2018 Silent Cinema Showcase will feature a number of Buster Keaton restorations. I'm making my plans; is anyone else interested in going?

Accattony! Accattoni! Accattoné! (j.lu), Friday, 5 October 2018 12:25 (one year ago) link

This looks dreadful but I'm surprised by how lovely Keaton's speaking voice is


Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 5 October 2018 12:43 (one year ago) link

Keaton's MGM talkies are largely dreadful. And while I wouldn't describe his voice as "lovely," it does fit his persona and physique remarkably well.

Accattony! Accattoni! Accattoné! (j.lu), Friday, 5 October 2018 14:05 (one year ago) link

Ok maybe not "lovely" but a lot of marble-y character - he sounds great 30 years later on Buster Keaton Rides Again, too

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 5 October 2018 14:28 (one year ago) link

Try again...


Dan Worsley, Friday, 5 October 2018 20:29 (one year ago) link


Dan Worsley, Friday, 5 October 2018 20:32 (one year ago) link

three weeks pass...

In the Gilbert Gottfried podcast w/ James Karen that was recommended after JK's death last week, Karen describes Joe Keaton tossing Buster into the wings and occasionally into the audience in the family act (when BK was 5 or 6). He quoted Buster: "The old man wasn't so bad... Before he threw me into the audience he'd say, 'Better tighten up your asshole, Bus.' "

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 31 October 2018 17:01 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

The Bogdanovich documentary opens here over Christmas. Keaton died in '66, which leaves the window open for some "Buster and I" anecdotes. I'll see it anyway.

clemenza, Sunday, 16 December 2018 15:56 (eleven months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Caught the last screening of The Great Buster. Well intentioned, but I don't think Bogdanovich does Keaton any favours. He makes this odd decision to save the 10 features--"The Keaton decade"--for the end of the film. So you get his life story up to 1921 or so, brief mention of what comes next ("But we'll get to that later"), then the story picks up as sound comes in and Keaton's career starts to fall apart. My guess is that Bogdanovich wanted to end with the period of triumph rather than the checkered rest of his life; there also may have been the assumption that anyone seeing this knows the films and the life story well already. Maybe--I have to believe some people will see The Great Buster knowing very little about Keaton, and how do you give full weight to his appearances in Sunset Boulevard and Limelight without the context of those 10 features? I also thought that maybe Bogdanovich the film critic would have all these insightful things to say about the films being saved for the end. No: he offers plot summaries and assertions ("one of his funniest scenes," etc.). The interview subjects are a mixed lot. Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, absolutely. Werner Herzog and Tarantino--sure, why not. But the director of the Jackass films gets more screen time than any of them (or anybody else, I think). If you go for the clips, there are lots of them; if you're looking for more, be forewarned. (Big surprise: Orson Welles gets worked in towards the end.)

clemenza, Friday, 4 January 2019 04:26 (eleven months ago) link

two months pass...

watched the great buster on a flight today. it was pretty wack ... as clemenza mentioned above the structure just didn't make any sense, and the people being interviewed were really hit or miss. It would have been better, i think, to have told his life story in chronological order, peppering in some notable gags and maybe interviews with those who actually knew him. it was obviously the narrators passion project, and that intensity did show through in a nice way at times. still, it was a bizarre hodge-podge tbh

boobie, Monday, 4 March 2019 04:53 (nine months ago) link

five months pass...

BK Day next Monday on TCM. Kinda mean to show Doughboys? As is showing the Lost Horizon remake on Liv Day.


a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 12 August 2019 15:32 (three months ago) link

BK's MGM talkies leave much to be desired, but Doughboys is hardly the worst of the lot. How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, OTOH....

I didn't see The Great Buster when it was in theaters, and I have no intention of watching it on TCM. Bogdanovich's reputation for Golden Age brownnosing put me right off. I almost wish Jeff Tremaine, or other people doing contemporary physical comedy, had made the documentary and interviewed Bogdanovich.

As for the 1970s version of Lost Horizon, I saw on TCM.com requests--presumably from authentic watchers--that it be screened. Between the fans and the aficionados of flop films, there's an audience.

Anne Hedonia (j.lu), Monday, 12 August 2019 16:43 (three months ago) link

afaik I haven't seen Doughboys. I suppose it can't be worse than the Durante teamings.

I've been looking at some of the shorts with Arbuckle that I realized I'd never seen (or had forgotten): Out West, Moonshine, The Rough House, Oh Doctor1 etc. Still strange to see him pulling faces, crying, and all that. In Out West he's kinda like Deadwood's Al Swearengen.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 12 August 2019 17:01 (three months ago) link

TCM is mercifully omitting Free and Easy (the final musical number...). Although I wouldn't mind seeing Estrellados, the alternate Spanish-language version.

Anne Hedonia (j.lu), Monday, 12 August 2019 17:14 (three months ago) link

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