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Buster Keaton

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intothenitrate
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby intothenitrate » January 6th, 2011, 6:38 am

MichiganJ wrote: Buster's reactions to some of her naiveté (my oft mentioned 'ringing her neck when she throws away the wood because it has a hole, but then embracing her') is one of my favorite love scenes. All done inside of a chase, too...


I kept thinking about that moment in The General too when I was reading the above thread. It's priceless...and oddly sweet and tender.

Of "the three," I'd say that Keaton is hands down the foremost in conveying "being smitten." I don't know how he does it--his stone face persona doesn't allow much in the way of facial expressions--but when he sees a girl who awakens his love, "he is as one who is dead," as the poets would say. Although it's supposed to be a comedic device, there's something deadly serious about it. You feel it.

His character also takes chivalry to the limit, which is great motivation around which to structure all those elaborate gags.

As far as the charge of misogyny goes, isn't there a streak of misogyny (from a contemporary perspective) in the majority of early films? And racism, for that matter? We've learned to overlook those aspects in order to appreciate the larger art. I don't have a sense of what other material was showing in theaters at the time--so much of it is lost--but I wouldn't be surprised if, by comparison, Keaton's handling of women in his films might have been more progressive than his competitors'. (But I'm just speculating).
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 8:54 am

I kept thinking about that moment in The General too when I was reading the above thread. It's priceless...and oddly sweet and tender.

Of "the three," I'd say that Keaton is hands down the foremost in conveying "being smitten." I don't know how he does it--his stone face persona doesn't allow much in the way of facial expressions--but when he sees a girl who awakens his love, "he is as one who is dead," as the poets would say. Although it's supposed to be a comedic device, there's something deadly serious about it. You feel it.

His character also takes chivalry to the limit, which is great motivation around which to structure all those elaborate gags.


I couldn't agree more. Still waters run deep.

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby charliechaplinfan » January 6th, 2011, 2:21 pm

I don't think Keaton hated women, rather like MichiganJ said that his relationship with Talmadge and her family, particularly the mother in law who seemed to rule the roost were reflected in his films. Perhaps it was in the Too Hard To Handle documentary, one of Keaton's coworker said that when they filmed the house scene in Steamboat Bill Jnr, Keaton really didn't care anymore. Poor Buster was a victim or circumstances, his romance with Natalie was unconventional and suddenly ended in marriage, he doesn't look happy in his wedding pictures, they had two children very close together and someone in the family decided that Natalie had done enough for Buster and from then on he was a lodger in his own house and certainly never to darken Natalie's bedroom door again. He said fine but he would see other women and the marriage carried on for another few years, Buster had all his money signed over to Natalie, this tells me he probably didn't trust himself with money but let her spend whatever she wanted and she did spend. When they finally parted, Natalie changed the children's names to Talmadge, he was left with nothing apart from a contract with MGM, it was around this time that he moved onto the MGM lot in his bus and proceeded to have parties/orgies depending on who's opinion you believe. He married again and the only thing I've read about this marriage is that his second wife was assigned to look after him and married him whilst he was on one of his binges, Buster remembering nothing of it, I don't want to slander anyone here but what I have read is that she was also a hooker. This was Buster at his lowest, he got himself out of his troubles and alcoholism, which must have been so tough to do and I can only have the utmost respect for him for picking himself up. Thankfully shortly after he met Eleanor.

Before Natalie I think he led the life of a young male vaudeville performer.

I'd love to see those shorts showing Buster as a waiter and also Chaplin's birthday film MichiganJ, are they available for purchase?
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 2:39 pm

Yes, that is almost word for word what I read too, about his private life, though not sure about the part in Steamboat Bill being that he didn't care anymore. I think it's amazing that he got himself sober after so many years, most people only do so with the help of a loved one, or because of a significant other. I have the utmost respect for him.

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby charliechaplinfan » January 6th, 2011, 4:38 pm

I like to think that out of the three comedians (I don't know enough about the others) that he was the nicest, I adore Chaplin but there's no doubt there was an ego there, I've read that Lloyd had a terrible temper in later years, Buster took it out on himself.

Buster did get to know his sons in later years, they sought him out.

Sybil Seeley is a good screen partner for Buster, Marion Byron was only 16 when she made Steamboat Bill Jnr, some of her underwater scenes were doubled by Buster's sister.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby MichiganJ » January 6th, 2011, 5:21 pm

Oops, while I did watch them in correct order, I mentioned The Blacksmith before My Wife's Relations, which comes first. Sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused. Now, on with the show...

My Wife's Relations is often cited as Keaton's reflection on his unhappy marriage, but, frankly, I don't see it. It's another mistaken identity comedy, with Keaton inadvertently getting wed into a family of large, unmannered folks who only warm up to Buster when they think he's got a big inheritance coming. While it looks like a harbinger of things to come, Keaton had only been married a year and the film really pokes more fun at class rather than family. Really, not much to read into (for me, at least), and probably the weakest Keaton short. (It still has some good gags, though: my favorite being the brother-in-law who keeps adding cubes of sugar to his coffee. A gag done a hundred times, I know, but here Keaton stops the guy, grabs his coffee cup and simply pours the coffee into the sugar bowl.)

The Frozen North is another Keaton masterpiece, but one that should be avoided at all costs if the genial Keaton persona needs to be maintained. In the short, Keaton is a cold-blooded murderer, a philanderer, abuses his wife (poor Seeley) and horror-of-horrors (especially for Buster), he emotes all over the place, breaking out with huge tears and grand melodramatics. It's fabulously funny, filled with completely unexpected gags, and is probably the film that had me laughing the hardest (that is, when I could lift my jaw off of the floor.) What a risky film for Keaton to make. An out-an-out satire of William S. Hart, Keaton is merciless--and, apparently and understandably, Hart was none too pleased--but doggone is it ever funny.

(Spoiler!!!!)

By far the funniest gag is one of the most surreal bits in a Keaton film: Buster is trying to make moves on a woman. He's despicable in every way, and when we see Buster from the girl's point of view, Buster is now dressed as Erich von Stroheim! White military garb, boots, hat, long filtered cigarette, and oh, yes…the monocle. I nearly fell out of my chair. Great.

(End spoiler)

The Electric House is pretty much what the title suggests. Buster wires a house to do all kinds of things, which ends in chaos, of course.

Daydreams is the film where Buster's girl (Renée Adorée) and her father insist he make good before he can marry, with the proviso that if he doesn't make good, Buster will kill himself. Blackout gags follow, but it's pretty dark.

The Balloonatic is, as I'd mentioned, probably Keaton's most romantic film. It meanders a bit at the beginning (with some funny bits at an amusement park), but soon the surrealism kicks in and away we go….The conclusion, which looks to be a typical Keaton downer, is anything but, as Keaton plays with our expectations yet again.

The Love Nest is Keaton's final short and if you like surreal, then this is a good one to watch. Through various misadventures, Buster ends up on a fishing boat (that even goes after whales), and is captained by big Joe Roberts, who has no qualms throwing his crew members overboard when they do something wrong. (Nice guy, though, for he also tosses in a wreath of flowers. He's got lots of those and it's a great running gag.) Wacky things ensue and Buster actually ends up on a target for Navy ships. Close to a classic, and, again, very dark.

A few thoughts on Buster's shorts:

--I'd expected to see the "Buster" character gradually emerge, but he's pretty much fully formed by the second short, One Week.
--Already mentioned, but worth repeating, when they appeared, Keaton's women were generally his equal in his films (The Frozen North being a huge exception, of course).
--Keaton reveled in spoofing his fellow movie stars.
--Suicide and death permeate through his films. Chaplin and Lloyd sometimes used suicide and death gags, too, but in Keaton's case they are much more prevalent and considerably darker.
--Dreams also play a huge part in Keaton's films. Nightmares more accurately. Fits in with the surrealism.
--While Chaplin films are filled with hope and Lloyd's filled with optimism, even from the later Arbuckle/Keaton films, it's clear that Keaton was a fatalist.
--These are some of the funniest films ever made.

Features, ho!…
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby movieman1957 » January 6th, 2011, 11:02 pm

The Scarecrow, I agree, is very clever and funny in the opening sequence in the house. After that there isn't any story to speak of but there are some fun gags. The fun part is how well timed everything is. I think the handstand walk across the creek was good so that he can save his shoes only to land a bit short. I wonder when his roommate crossing the same creek and finding the hole was the inspiration for Oliver Hardy's frequent disappearance in any puddle of water.

You are quite right about his reaction at realizing she thinks he is proposing. It is a nice reaction from him with a gentle hug.
Chris

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby charliechaplinfan » January 8th, 2011, 4:44 pm

Whilst my husband likes Chaplin, he thinks Buster is awful, how can I be married to a man who thinks that? Buster made some of the cleverest and funniest films around.

I'd forgotten how many times Keaton is sweet with his women. I think in The Cameraman and Spite Marriage develop the woman's roles with hilarious consequences.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby silentscreen » January 8th, 2011, 8:45 pm

Buster is really sweet with his love interest in "The Cameraman." That is one of my favorite Keaton films.
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby Rita Hayworth » February 18th, 2011, 2:25 pm

charliechaplinfan wrote:I think Fairbanks had filmed his own version some years before, Keaton is an odd substitution for Fairbanks in everything apart from the athleticism. With both actors I get a thrill just watching them perform because of their athletic abilities and how they come across on screen.

I was thinking about the Keaton features in order of how I enojy them to see if it would give me some insight into why I like him so much.

Our Hosptality tops my list, because of that very attention to detail mentioned here, I feel like I'm getting a partial history lesson at the same time. I love all the laughs that come off the back of both the train ride and the hospitality and of course the stunt at the end, amazing.
Sherlock Jnr - I'm sure I'd have liked this even more but the score Kino put with is awful, nevertheless I turn off the score and watch, his technincal ability and tricks with the camera I think are above Lloyd and Chaplin, the chases too that never seem to end but are never boring. Perfection
The General - Keaton's genius is to take a subject that isn't very interesting to me, trains and war and make one of my favorite silent movies out of it. What can I say that hasn't been said.
Steamboat Bill jnr - Some say Keaton was going off his game when he made this but I think it has some wonderful parts, the cyclone sequence is amazing and I like the gentle humour with the hats and inthe jailhouse
Battling Butler - Just as has been mentioned above, the rich boy humour is much better here, I feel the film builds up to a climax which some may find distasteful but I never do, I quite like watching Buster beat the other guy to a pulp. I like all the gags around the training camp.
College - this was probably made to capitalise on Lloyd's Freshman, I can hear Joe Schenk telling Buster to make this movie and Buster not wanting to be a copy cat. Nevertheless Buster's film for me is the better, I feel perhaps his heart isn't in it but it works. It's the first feature I always picture him stood under the umbrella with his mother.
Seven Chances - I've seen this the most often, another Buster didn't want to make but a must for the scene with the brides and the chase. He turned a script he didn't want into a minor masterpiece.
The Navigator - doesn't work quite as well for me, I think it's because the giirl is seriously dumb in this one but I like the gags built around the boat
Go West - sweet, a touch of Chaplin as friendless, it doesn't feel quite as original for me.
The Three Ages - I hesitate to put this in the list as I haven't seen it in a long time but my memory of it, it isn't as good as the others.


Dear All,

When I was in Victoria back in 1988 - I went to visit a friend who loved Buster Keaton just as well as I do. He invited me to see Steamboat Bill, The General, and Our Hospitality in a little hole and a wall theater located in Upper Victoria and I had a blast seeing these three movies that day.

CharlieChaplinFan - Created an instant list of all of the Buster Keaton's films that I seen except College. I have not seen College yet. but I hope someday will. I wished they show more of these movies along with Charlie Chaplin as well. Everytime I visit Victoria - BC Royal Museum show - Chaplin's Gold Rush and I seen that movie about 50 times in my life and I love it every time.

Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are simply the greatest of all silent screen stars of that era.

My favorite Keaton's film is Our Hospitality - I love the joy, the laughter (back in the train), the tenderness, and the way he project himself in this enduring film. Its keeps you on your edge of your seats.

Why I like this ...

Our Hospitality got good sequences, tempo is somewhat out of whack and I love the early part of the film of where you can see some beautiful replicas of old vehicles including trains and bicycles and also some of Keaton's usual train-rail comedy.

The middle part, where Keaton guests his blood feud enemies is full of running in and out through doors. Up until now everything has been pretty slow. The last third of the movie though, is truly mind boggling! Keaton and a chasing gunman falls down cliffs, flows down rivers and waterfalls, jumps in and out of moving trains and so on while tied to each other with a rope around their waists. Great Stunt Works those days and quite daring too.

Our Hospitality however, has also got a lot of comedy in its moments of unbelievable action that you wanted to see more.


So, after seeing these three movies that day - my friend told me want to see these three movies again? - Of course ...

So, I went back and saw them again. Love it even better ... I was laughing again and again.

Keaton was simply one of a kind.

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby charliechaplinfan » February 19th, 2011, 9:55 am

Keaton was one of a kind, you put into words just what I love about Our Hospitality, the attention to detail. I'm sure the train in the opening is now in a museum somewhere because Keaton made an exact replica of the original, the Rocket, I think it was called. His famous attention to detail is one of the reasons I love him, his stunts are another, more so than Harold Lloyd does Buster Keaton make me sit on the edge of my seat, chewing my fingers nails and gazing in wonderment at what I see before me.

If you have never seen A Hard Act To Follow a documentary on Buster it's well worth renting. It shows how the amazing waterfall stunt was done amongst other things.You'll love Buster even more.
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby Rita Hayworth » February 19th, 2011, 10:42 am

charliechaplinfan wrote:Keaton was one of a kind, you put into words just what I love about Our Hospitality, the attention to detail. I'm sure the train in the opening is now in a museum somewhere because Keaton made an exact replica of the original, the Rocket, I think it was called. His famous attention to detail is one of the reasons I love him, his stunts are another, more so than Harold Lloyd does Buster Keaton make me sit on the edge of my seat, chewing my fingers nails and gazing in wonderment at what I see before me.

If you have never seen A Hard Act To Follow a documentary on Buster it's well worth renting. It shows how the amazing waterfall stunt was done amongst other things.You'll love Buster even more.


I will put that on my list of movies to see. I never heard of it. charliechaplinfan - I'm using a spare 3 ring notebook filled with paper - to jot down movies or things to see - I will add A Hard Act to Follow - to my list - with a reference to Buster.

Thanks for the Heads Up - I mean it.

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby charliechaplinfan » February 20th, 2011, 11:43 am

You're welcome, I only heard of it from another member. Joining this forum has really opened me up to new movies/genres/actors/directors. Great thing about here is there is a mix of what films we've grown up with and what we've seen, we all learn off one another.
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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby movieman1957 » February 22nd, 2011, 9:37 am

For me "Our Hospitality" has a gentle quality to it. Maybe it is the period it is set in but even with the action and the family trying to kill him it retains it. It looks like he doesn't take those attempts too personally. I love it too that the dog followed him all the way down south and he never knew it.
Chris

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Re: Buster Keaton

Postby MichiganJ » June 13th, 2011, 12:21 pm

Been waiting on the features as they become available on Blu-ray. The Keaton shorts come out on Blu on 7/12.

Three Ages (1923) is Buster's first independent feature and to hedge his bets, he created a film that is essentially three two-reelers, but actually works quite well as a parody of Griffith's Intolerance. Keaton and rival Wallace Beery vie for Margaret Leahy in each story, which take place in the Stone Age, Ancient Rome, and the Modern Age. Like Intolerance, Keaton cuts between the stories, showcasing similar situations as they'd take place in the different eras. Each episode has its own set-piece, the funniest, to me, being the chariot race in the Roman sequence (it snows, so Keaton transforms his chariot to a sled, complete with dogs.) To me, though, as with most things Keaton, the laugh-out loud moments are some of the throw-away gags that, for whatever reason, crack me up. In this case, during the modern story, Keaton is seated next to a woman at a table in a night club. She proceeds to take out her compact mirror and touch up her makeup and lipstick. Keaton, watching this, reaches down and pulls out his shaving kit, and, turning her compact so he can see, begins shaving. (I guess you just gotta see it.)

The image on the blu-ray is very good, but a mixed bag because the sharp picture also shows how badly damaged the print is in segments. Breaks your heart, but at least we have something. As a special feature, each episode has been edited together, to give a sense what the films may have been like had they been released as shorts. They are utterly fascinating because they don't work at all. The timing is way off for just about every gag, and clearly Keaton would have had to shoot much more footage for each episode.

While Three Ages is good and has plenty of laughs, the sad thing is that it could have been considerably better. Keaton was saddled with a contest winner as his costar (Leahy), and while not much is expected of her, she gives even less. The shame is that Keaton really wanted to use his sister-in-law, Constance, as his leading lady. Can you imagine the possibilities? The Mountain Girl herself playing in a spoof of Intolerance? She was game, too, but producer Joe Schenck didn't think having two stars in one movie was good business. Better to have a non-actress contest winner...


Our Hospitality (1923) Not only is this a masterpiece and one of Keaton's greatest films, but for my money, Our Hospitality is one of the greatest silent film comedies. The story construction is flawless (essentially it's the Hatfields-McCoys feud but set in the early 1800's), most of the humor is derived from the situations and characters, and, like his other period masterpiece, The General, there is quite a lot of drama, which keeps the audience involved and in suspense. Consider the opening, where the feud is set up: it's pretty bleak, in fact downright dark for a film that is a comedy. And of course there is the spectacular river/waterfall sequence, which, even now knowing how it was done, is nerve-wracking.

And, of course, there's the train.

No sense in relaying favorite gags. (Well, just one: The hat gag in the train is pretty brilliant in its simplicity.)

The image on the blu-ray is wonderful, although it does show its age. Fortunately there aren't any obvious signs of decomposition, certainly nothing like Three Ages. Included on the Blu is a fascinating alternative cut of the film called just Hospitality, which runs about 50-minutes. No one knows for sure, but it is suspected that Hospitality was a work print Keaton assembled to see exactly how his plot would fit together. One of the biggest differences is the whole prologue sequence is instead presented as a flashback, inserted when Keaton's Aunt tells him of the feud.

Also included is a terrific two-reeler, The Iron Mule, which features Keaton's train from Our Hospitality. Directed by Roscoe Arbuckle, the short is an Al St. John vehicle, with Keaton himself popping up in various uncredited roles.
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