Buster Keaton

"Keaton was ahead of his time. During the 20s he was overshadowed by Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, yet it is Keaton's work that has best stood the test of time, and today he is widely regarded as the greatest comic film-maker of them all." - Joel W. Finler (The Movie Directors Story, 1985)

Buster Keaton

Director / Actor / Screenwriter / Editor / Producer
(1895-1966) Born October 4, Piqua, Kansas, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Comedy, Slapstick, Short Film, Romantic Comedy, Adventure Comedy, Sea Adventure, Romance
Key Collaborators: Elgin Lessley (Cinematographer), Joseph M. Schenck (Producer), Eddie Cline (Director/Screenwriter/Leading Character Actor), Joe Roberts (Leading Actor), Virginia Fox (Leading Actress), Fred Gabourie (Production Designer), Sybil Seely (Leading Actress), Clyde Bruckman (Director/Screenwriter), Jean C. Havez (Screenwriter), Joseph A. Mitchell (Screenwriter), Richard Schayer (Screenwriter), Lawrence Weingarten (Producer)

"Of all the great silent comedians, Buster Keaton is the one who suffered the worst eclipse with the coming of sound but whose reputation has recovered the best… Keaton's mastery of timing -- the natural comedian's stock-in trade -- was extraordinary. From very early on, however, he extended it from the field of acting performance into that of extended mise-en-scene. He developed running gags and constructed comic scenes which lasted for several minutes and deployed extensive resources, often centered around moving objects such as trains or motor-bikes. Control of the architecture of these scenes was as important as the comic business carried by his performance." - Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (The Oxford History of World Cinema, 1999)
"Buster Keaton is the only creator-star of American silent comedies who equals Chaplin as one of the artistic giants of the cinema. He is perhaps the only silent clown whose reputation is far higher today than it was in the 1920s, when he made his greatest films. In comparison to Chaplin, Keaton's films were more blithely athletic and optimistic, more committed to audacious physical stunts and cinema tricks, far less interested in exploring moral paradoxes and emotional resonances." - Gerald Mast (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)
"Joseph Francis Keaton is arguably the greatest film comedian the world has ever known. What is perhaps less commonly recognised is that he was also one of cinema's greatest directors: unlike most comics, he displayed a masterly, apparently intuitive grasp of the possibilities of film, both before and behind the camera." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
"Keaton strikes a chord with the world of post-1960 that was not heard when his greatest films were made. It has been argued, with justice, that his films are "beautiful," which means that their comedy is expressed in photography that is creative, witty, and excited by the appearance of things. That sounds obvious, but most comedy films of the silent era did little more than film the comedian's "act." - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002)
"Keaton was not possessed with Chaplin's need to express poetry on screen; rather, his comedy is rooted in the traditions of the American medicine show and vaudeville and its strength lies in its ability to sustain a gag, not through belly laughs, but by exploiting the inspiring resourcefulness of its indomitable hero. Keaton exercised complete artistic control over his films, and although he was usually billed as co-director of his productions, he was actually in charge of all directorial decisions on the set." - The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994
"Although his directorial career was cut short by sound and Louis B. Mayer, Keaton helmed, wrote, and starred in some of the most brilliant comedies in cinema history. He had a fine sense of story values, the past, character development, and comic logic. In addition to having talent for slapstick, Keaton, most of all, was a master of humor which could only be done on the movie screen." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
"I don't act, anyway. The stuff is all injected as we go along. My pictures are made without script or written directions of any kind." - Buster Keaton
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Our Hospitality (1923) [co-directed by John G. Blystone], Sherlock Jr. (1924) , Seven Chances (1925) , The General (1926) [co-directed by Clyde Bruckman], The Cameraman (1928) [co-directed by Edward Sedgwick]
Recommended
One Week (1920) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], Neighbors (1920) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], The Boat (1921) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], Cops (1922) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], The Navigator (1924) [co-directed by Donald Crisp], Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [co-directed by Charles Reisner], Spite Marriage (1929) [co-directed by Edward Sedgwick]
Worth a Look
The Haunted House (1921) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], The High Sign (1921) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], The Balloonatic (1923) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], The Three Ages (1923) [co-directed by Eddie Cline], Go West (1925), Battling Butler (1926)
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