Thursday, July 19, 2012


By 1932, Thelma Todd had worked with most of the best-known comedians in the movies, including Laurel and Hardy, Wheeler and Woolsey, The Marx Brothers, and Joe E.Brown. MGM decided to use her in a movie with Buster Keaton. The movie was a success, but Keaton was in trouble and would be fired by the studio after only one more film.

Speak Easily

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Speak Easily

DVD cover
Directed byEdward Sedgwick
StarringBuster Keaton
Jimmy Durante
Thelma Todd
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)1932
Running time80 minutes
CountryUnited States
Speak Easily is a 1932 American comedy film starring Buster Keaton, Jimmy Durante, and Thelma Todd, and directed by Edward Sedgwick. The studio also paired Keaton and Durante as a comedy team during this period in The Passionate Plumber and What! No Beer? Keaton later used many of the physical gags he created for this film later when he wrote (uncredited) gags for the Marx Brothers A Night At The Opera.
A myth persists that the Keaton talkies were critical and popular failures that virtually finished Keaton's career. While it is true that these later Keaton efforts were artistically inferior to his best work, many of them were solid moneymakers. In reality, it was Keaton's increasingly vocal discontent, with the exhausting workload, and growing drinking problem that led to the studio letting him go.

 Cast (in credits order)

 DVD release

While much silent film is finding its way on to the DVD format via labels such as Kino in Germany, and Eureka and BFI in the U.K., early talkies have a spottier track record in the home video market. "Speak Easily" exists in several versions on US DVD: from Alpha Video in 2004, from Synergy Ent. in 2007, from Reel Classics in 2007 and 2008, and in a double-bill with "Steamboat Bill Jr." from East West Entertainment. The first ever DVD release in the UK is from Powis Square Pictures in January 2009.

 External links

And here's a little about Buster Keaton from Wikipedia.

Buster Keaton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Buster Keaton
BornJoseph Frank Keaton
(1895-10-04)October 4, 1895
Piqua, Kansas, United States
DiedFebruary 1, 1966(1966-02-01) (aged 70)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of deathLung cancer
OccupationActor, director, producer and writer
Years active1898–1966
SpouseNatalie Talmadge
(m. 1921–1932)
Mae Scriven
(m. 1933–1936)
Eleanor Norris
(m. 1940-1966; his death)
Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American comic actor, filmmaker, producer and writer.[1] He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face".[2]
Buster Keaton (his lifelong stage name) was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.[3] In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton the 21st-greatest male star of all time. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."[2]
Orson Welles stated that Keaton's The General is "the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made."[4]
A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton's The General as the 15th best film of all time. Three other Keaton films received votes in the magazine's survey: Our Hospitality, Sherlock, Jr., and The Navigator.[5]

 Early life in vaudeville

Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton[6] into a vaudeville family. He was named "Joseph" to continue a tradition on his father's side—he was sixth in a line bearing the name Joseph Keaton[6]—and "Frank" for his maternal grandfather, who disapproved of the parents' union. Later, Keaton changed his middle name to "Francis".[6] His father was Joseph Hallie "Joe" Keaton, a native of Vigo County, Indiana. Joe Keaton owned a traveling show with Harry Houdini called the "Mohawk Indian Medicine Company", which performed on stage and sold patent medicine on the side. Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas, the small town where his mother, Myra Keaton (née Myra Edith Cutler), happened to go into labor.[7]
According to a frequently-repeated story, which may be apocryphal,[8] Keaton acquired the nickname "Buster" at about eighteen months of age. Keaton told interviewer Fletcher Markle that Harry Houdini happened to be present one day when the young Keaton took a tumble down a long flight of stairs without injury. After the infant sat up and shook off his experience, Houdini remarked, "That was a real buster!" According to Keaton, in those days, the word "buster" was used to refer to a spill or a fall that had the potential to produce injury. After this, it was Keaton's father who began to use the nickname to refer to the youngster. Keaton retold the anecdote over the years, including during a 1964 interview with the CBC's Telescope.[9]
At the age of three, Keaton began performing with his parents in The Three Keatons. He first appeared on stage in 1899 in Wilmington, Delaware. The act was mainly a comedy sketch. Myra played the saxophone to one side, while Joe and Buster performed on center stage. The young Keaton would goad his father by disobeying him, and the elder Keaton would respond by throwing him against the scenery, into the orchestra pit, or even into the audience. A suitcase handle was sewn into Keaton's clothing to aid with the constant tossing. The act evolved as Keaton learned to take trick falls safely; he was rarely injured or bruised on stage. This knockabout style of comedy led to accusations of child abuse, and occasionally, arrest. However, Buster Keaton was always able to show the authorities that he had no bruises or broken bones. He was eventually billed as "The Little Boy Who Can't Be Damaged," with the overall act being advertised as "'The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage."[10] Decades later, Keaton said that he was never hurt by his father and that the falls and physical comedy were a matter of proper technical execution. In 1914, Keaton told the Detroit News:
The secret is in landing limp and breaking the fall with a foot or a hand. It's a knack. I started so young that landing right is second nature with me. Several times I'd have been killed if I hadn't been able to land like a cat. Imitators of our act don't last long, because they can't stand the treatment.[10]
Keaton claimed he was having so much fun that he would sometimes begin laughing as his father threw him across the stage. Noticing that this drew fewer laughs from the audience, he adopted his famous deadpan expression whenever he was working.[11]
The act ran up against laws banning child performers in vaudeville. It is said that, when one official saw Keaton in full costume and makeup and asked a stagehand how old he was, the stagehand then pointed to the boy's mother, saying, "I don't know, ask his wife!" According to one biographer, Keaton was made to go to school while performing in New York, but only attended for part of one day. Despite tangles with the law and a disastrous tour of music halls in the United Kingdom, Keaton was a rising star in the theater. Keaton stated that he learned to read and write late, and was taught by his mother. By the time he was 21, his father's alcoholism threatened the reputation of the family act,[10] so Keaton and his mother, Myra, left for New York, where Buster Keaton's career swiftly moved from vaudeville to film.[12]
Although he did not see active combat, he served in World War I, during which time he suffered an ear infection that permanently impaired his hearing.[13][14]

 Silent film era

In February 1917, Keaton met Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle at the Talmadge Studios in New York City, where Arbuckle was under contract to Joseph M. Schenck. Joe Keaton disapproved of films, and Buster also had reservations about the medium. During his first meeting with Arbuckle, he asked to borrow one of the cameras to get a feel for how it worked. He took the camera back to his hotel room, dismantled and reassembled it. With this rough understanding of the mechanics of the moving pictures, he returned the next day, camera in hand, asking for work. He was hired as a co-star and gag man, making his first appearance in The Butcher Boy. Keaton later claimed that he was soon Arbuckle's second director and his entire gag department. Keaton and Arbuckle became close friends.
In 1920, The Saphead was released, in which Keaton had his first starring role in a full-length feature. It was based on a successful play, The New Henrietta, which had already been filmed once, under the title "The Lamb" with Douglas Fairbanks playing the lead. Fairbanks recommended Keaton to take up the role for the remake five years later, since the film was to have a comic slant.
After Keaton's successful work with Arbuckle, Schenck gave him his own production unit, Buster Keaton Comedies. He made a series of two-reel comedies, including One Week (1920), The Playhouse (1921), Cops (1922), and The Electric House (1922). Keaton then moved to full-length features, his first starring role being in The Saphead (1920).
Keaton's writers included Clyde Bruckman and Jean Havez, but the most ingenious gags were generally conceived by Keaton himself. Comedy director Leo McCarey, recalling the freewheeling days of making slapstick comedies, said, "All of us tried to steal each other's gagmen. But we had no luck with Keaton, because he thought up his best gags himself and we couldn't steal him!"[15] The more adventurous ideas called for dangerous stunts, performed by Keaton at great physical risk. During the railroad water-tank scene in Sherlock Jr., Keaton broke his neck when a torrent of water fell on him from a water tower, but he did not realize it until years afterward. A scene from Steamboat Bill Jr. required Keaton to run into the shot and stand still on a particular spot. Then, the facade of a two-story building toppled forward on top of Keaton. Keaton's character emerged unscathed, thanks to a single open window which passed directly over him. The stunt required precision, because the prop house weighed two tons, and the window only offered a few inches of space around Keaton's body. The sequence became one of the iconic images of Keaton's career.[16]
The film critic David Thomson later described Keaton's style of comedy: "Buster plainly is a man inclined towards a belief in nothing but mathematics and absurdity ... like a number that has always been searching for the right equation. Look at his face — as beautiful but as inhuman as a butterfly — and you see that utter failure to identify sentiment."[17] Gilberto Perez describes "Keaton's genius as an actor to keep a face so nearly deadpan and yet render it, by subtle inflections, so vividly expressive of inner life. His large deep eyes are the most eloquent feature; with merely a stare he can convey a wide range of emotions, from longing to mistrust, from puzzlement to sorrow."[18] Keaton even inspired full academic study.[19]
Aside from Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), Keaton's most enduring feature-length films include Our Hospitality (1923), The Navigator (1924), Sherlock Jr. (1924), Seven Chances (1925), The Cameraman (1928), and The General (1927). The General, set during the American Civil War, combined physical comedy with Keaton's love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase. Employing picturesque locations, the film's storyline reenacted an actual wartime incident. Though it would come to be regarded as Keaton's proudest achievement, the film received mixed reviews at the time. It was too dramatic for some filmgoers expecting a lightweight comedy, and reviewers questioned Keaton's judgment in making a comedic film about the Civil War, even while noting it had a "few laughs".[20]
It was an expensive misfire, and Keaton was never entrusted with total control over his films again. His distributor, United Artists, insisted on a production manager who monitored expenses and interfered with certain story elements. Keaton endured this treatment for two more feature films, and then exchanged his independent setup for employment at Hollywood's biggest studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Keaton's loss of independence as a filmmaker coincided with the coming of sound films (although he was interested in making the transition) and mounting personal problems, and his career in the early sound era was hurt as a result.[21]

 Sound era and television

Keaton signed with MGM in 1928, a business decision that he would later call the worst of his life. He realized too late that the studio system MGM represented would severely limit his creative input. For instance, the studio refused his request to make his early project, Spite Marriage, as a sound film and after the studio converted, he was obliged to adhere to dialogue-laden scripts. However, MGM did allow Keaton to direct his last originally developed/written silent film The Cameraman, 1928, which was his first project under contract with MGM.
Keaton was forced to use a stunt double during some of the more dangerous scenes, as MGM wanted badly to protect its investment. He also stopped directing, but continued to perform and made some of his most financially successful films for the studio. MGM tried teaming the laconic Keaton with the rambunctious Jimmy Durante in a series of films, The Passionate Plumber, Speak Easily, and What! No Beer? The latter would be Keaton's last starring feature. The films proved popular. (Thirty years later, both Keaton and Durante had cameo roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.)
In the first Keaton pictures with sound, he and his fellow actors would shoot each scene three times: one in English, one in Spanish, and one in either French or German. The actors would phonetically memorize the foreign-language scripts a few lines at time and shoot immediately after. This is discussed in the TCM documentary Buster Keaton: So Funny it Hurt, with Keaton complaining about having to shoot lousy films not just once, but three times.
Keaton was so depleted during the production of 1933's What! No Beer? that MGM fired him after the filming was complete, despite the film being a resounding hit. In 1934, Keaton accepted an offer to make an independent film in Paris, Le Roi des Champs-Élysées. During this period, he made one other film in Europe, The Invader (released in America as An Old Spanish Custom in 1936).

Educational Pictures

Upon Keaton's return to Hollywood, he made a screen comeback in a series of 16 two-reel comedies for Educational Pictures. Most of these are simple visual comedies, with many of the gags supplied by Keaton himself. The high point in the Educational series is Grand Slam Opera, featuring Buster in his own screenplay as an amateur-hour contestant. When the series lapsed in 1937, Keaton returned to MGM as a gag writer, including the Marx Brothers films At the Circus (1939) and Go West (1940), and providing material for Red Skelton. He also helped and advised Lucille Ball in her comedic work in films and television.[22]

 Columbia Pictures

In 1939, Columbia Pictures hired Keaton to star in ten two-reel comedies, running for two years. The director was usually Jules White, whose emphasis on slapstick made most of these films resemble White's Three Stooges comedies. Keaton's personal favorite was the series' debut entry, Pest from the West, a shorter, tighter remake of Keaton's little-viewed 1935 feature The Invader; it was directed not by White but by Del Lord, a veteran director for Mack Sennett. Moviegoers and exhibitors welcomed Keaton's Columbia comedies, proving that the comedian had not lost his appeal. However, taken as a whole, Keaton's Columbia shorts rank as the worst comedies he made, an assessment he concurred with in his autobiography.[23] The final entry was She's Oil Mine, and Keaton swore he would never again "make another crummy two-reeler."[23] These Columbia films are his final starring series for any film studio.

[1940s and feature films

Keaton's personal life had stabilized with his 1940 marriage, and now he was taking life a little easier, abandoning Columbia for the less strenuous field of feature films. Throughout the 1940s, Keaton played character roles in both "A" and "B" features. Critics rediscovered Keaton in 1949 and producers occasionally hired him for bigger "prestige" pictures. He had cameos in such films as In the Good Old Summertime (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).
Keaton also had a small bit part as Jimmy, appearing near the end of the film It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Jimmy assisted Spencer Tracy's character, Captain C. G. Culpepper, in storing his police car in a shoreline garage. Keaton was given more screen time in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). The appearance is all the more touching since it was Keaton's last public appearance.
Keaton also appeared in a comedy routine about two inept stage musicians in Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (1952), recalling the vaudeville of The Playhouse. With the exception of Seeing Stars, a minor publicity film produced in 1922, Limelight was the only time in which the two would ever appear together on film.
In 1949, comedian Ed Wynn invited Keaton to appear on his CBS Television comedy-variety show, The Ed Wynn Show, which was televised live on the West Coast. Kinescopes were made for distribution of the programs to other parts of the country since there was no transcontinental coaxial cable until September 1951.

 1950s and television

Keaton pretending to have his foot stuck in the railroad tracks of a train ride at Knott's Berry Farm in 1956
In 1950, Keaton had a successful television series, The Buster Keaton Show, which was broadcast live on a local Los Angeles station. An attempt to recreate the first series on film as Life with Buster Keaton (1951), which allowed the program to be broadcast nationwide, was less well received. He also appeared in the early television series Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town. A theatrical feature film, The Misadventures of Buster Keaton, was fashioned from the series. Keaton said he canceled the filmed series himself because he was unable to create enough fresh material to produce a new show each week. Keaton also appeared on Ed Wynn's variety show. At the age of 55, he successfully recreated one of the stunts of his youth, in which he propped one foot onto a table, then swung the second foot up next to it, and held the awkward position in midair for a moment before crashing to the stage floor. I've Got a Secret host Garry Moore recalled, "I asked (Keaton) how he did all those falls, and he said, 'I'll show you'. He opened his jacket and he was all bruised. So that's how he did it—it hurt—but you had to care enough not to care."
Unlike his contemporary Harold Lloyd, who kept his films from being televised (and therefore became lesser known to today's audiences), Keaton's periodic television appearances helped to revive interest in his silent films in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1954, Keaton played his first television dramatic role in "The Awakening", an episode of the syndicated anthology series Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents. About this time, he also appeared on NBC's The Martha Raye Show.

Keaton as a time traveler in The Twilight Zone episode, "Once Upon a Time", November 1961.
On April 3, 1957, Keaton was surprised by Ralph Edwards for the weekly NBC program This Is Your Life. The half hour program, which also promoted the release of the biographical film The Buster Keaton Story with Donald O'Connor, summarized Keaton's life and career up to that point.[24]
In December 1958, Keaton was a guest star as a hospital janitor who provides gifts to sick children in a special Christmas episode of The Donna Reed Show on ABC. The program was titled "A Very Merry Christmas". He returned to the program in 1965 in the episode "Now You See It, Now You Don't". The 1958 episode has been included in the DVD release of Donna Reed's television programs.[25] Actor Paul Peterson, a regular on "The Donna Reed Show," recalls in the book "The Fall of Buster Keaton" (2010, Scarecrow Press) that Keaton "put together an incredible physical skit. His skills were amazing. I never saw anything like it before or since."
In August 1960, Keaton accepted the role of mute King Sextimus the Silent in the national touring company of Once Upon A Mattress, a successful Broadway musical. Eleanor Keaton was cast in the chorus, and during rehearsals, she fielded questions directed at her husband, creating difficulties in communication. After a few days, Keaton warmed up to the rest of the cast with his "utterly delicious sense of humor", according to Fritzi Burr, who played opposite him as his wife Queen Aggravaine. When the tour landed in Los Angeles, Keaton invited the entire cast and crew to a spaghetti party at his Woodland Hills home, and entertained them by singing vaudeville songs.[26]
In 1960, Keaton returned to MGM for the final time, playing a lion tamer in a 1960 adaptation of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Much of the film was shot on location on the Sacramento River, which doubled for the Mississippi River setting of Twain's original book.[27]
In 1961, he starred in The Twilight Zone episode "Once Upon a Time", which included both silent and sound sequences. Keaton played time traveler Mulligan, who traveled from 1890 to 1960, then back, by means of a special helmet.
Keaton also found steady work as an actor in TV commercials, including a popular series of silent ads for Simon Pure Beer made in 1962 by Jim Mohr in Buffalo, NY in which he revisited some of the gags from his silent film days. In 1963, Keaton appeared in the episode "Think Mink" of ABC's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington sitcom, starring Fess Parker.
In 1964, Keaton appeared with Joan Blondell and Joe E. Brown in the final episode of ABC's circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth, starring Jack Palance. That same year, he appeared on Lucille Ball's CBS television show, The Lucy Show, in an episode ("A Day in the Park") filmed in color but initially televised in black and white; this featured him sitting on a park bench, reading a newspaper, which he gradually unfolded into a huge, single sheet, a gag first seen in his 1921 short The High Sign. Harvey Korman played a policeman in the scene.[28]

Keaton with fellow comedian Joe E. Brown in a 1962 episode of Route 66.
At the age of 70, Keaton suggested that, for his appearance in the 1965 film Sergeant Deadhead, he run past the end of a firehose into a six-foot-high flip and crash. When director Norman Taurog balked, expressing concerns for Keaton's health, Keaton said, "I won't hurt myself, Norm, I've done it for years!" Keaton also starred in three other films for American International Pictures (Beach Blanket Bingo, Pajama Party, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini).
In 1965, Keaton starred in a short film called The Railrodder for the National Film Board of Canada. Wearing his traditional porkpie hat, he travelled from one end of Canada to the other on a motorized handcar, performing gags similar to those in films he made 50 years before. The film is also notable for being Keaton's last silent screen performance. The Railrodder was made in tandem with a behind-the-scenes documentary about Keaton's life and times, called Buster Keaton Rides Again, also made for the National Film Board. He played the central role in Samuel Beckett's Film (1965), directed by Alan Schneider. Also in 1965, he traveled to Italy to play a role in Due Marines e un Generale, co-starring alongside with the famous Italian comedian duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia.
Keaton's last film appearance was in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) which was filmed in Spain in late 1965. He amazed the cast and crew by doing many of his own stunts, although Thames Television said his increasingly ill health did force the use of a stunt double for some scenes.[29]


In 1921, Keaton married Natalie Talmadge, sister-in-law of his boss, Joseph Schenck, and sister of actresses Norma Talmadge and Constance Talmadge. She co-starred with Keaton in Our Hospitality. The couple had two sons, James (1922–2007) and Robert (1924–2009), but after the birth of Robert, the relationship began to suffer.[30]
According to Keaton's autobiography, Natalie turned him out of their bedroom and hired detectives to follow him. Her extravagance was another factor in the breakdown of the marriage. During the 1920s, according to his autobiography, he dated actress Kathleen Key.[31]
After attempts at reconciliation, Natalie divorced Keaton in 1932, taking his entire fortune and refusing to allow any contact between Keaton and his sons, whose last name she had changed to Talmadge. Keaton was reunited with them about a decade later when his older son turned 18. The failure of his marriage, along with the loss of his independence as a filmmaker, led Keaton into a period of alcoholism.[21]
During the height of his popularity, Keaton spent $300,000 to build a 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) home in Beverly Hills, which was later owned by James Mason and Cary Grant. Keaton's "Italian Villa" can be seen in Keaton's film Parlor, Bedroom and Bath. Keaton later said, "I took a lot of pratfalls to build that dump." Mason found numerous cans of previously "lost" Keaton films in the house in the 1950s; the films were quickly transferred by Raymond Rohauer to safety film before the original cellulose nitrate prints further deteriorated. Among the discovered films is Keaton's long-lost classic The Boat.[32]
Keaton was at one point briefly institutionalized; however, according to the TCM documentary So Funny it Hurt, Keaton escaped a straitjacket with tricks learned during his vaudeville days. In 1933, he married his nurse, Mae Scriven, during an alcoholic binge about which he afterwards claimed to remember nothing (Keaton himself later called that period an "alcoholic blackout"). Scriven herself would later claim that she didn't know Keaton's real first name until after the marriage. The singular event that triggered Mae filing for divorce in 1935 was her finding Keaton in flagrante dilecto with the infamous Leah Clampitt Sewell on the 4th of July of that same year in a hotel in Santa Barbara.[33] When they divorced in 1936, it was again at great financial cost to Keaton.[34]
In 1940, Keaton married Eleanor Norris (1918–1998), who was 23 years his junior. She has been credited with saving his life by stopping his heavy drinking, and helped to salvage his career. The marriage lasted until his death. Between 1947 and 1954, they appeared regularly in the Cirque Medrano in Paris as a double act. She came to know his routines so well that she often participated in them on TV revivals.


Keaton died of lung cancer on February 1, 1966, aged 70, in Woodland Hills, California.[35] Despite being diagnosed with cancer in January 1966, he was never told that he was terminally ill or that he had cancer; Keaton thought that he was recovering from bronchitis. Confined to a hospital during his final days, Keaton was restless and paced the room endlessly, desiring to return home. In a British television documentary about his career, his widow Eleanor told producers of Thames Television that Keaton was up out of bed and moving around, and even played cards with friends who came to visit at their house the day before he died.[36] Eleanor Keaton died in 1998, from emphysema and lung cancer, aged 80.

Buster Keaton, Movie Star

 Influence and legacy

Keaton has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: 6619 Hollywood Boulevard (for motion pictures); and 6321 Hollywood Boulevard (for television).
In 1955, Keaton was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.
Jacques Tati is described as "taking a page from Buster Keaton's playbook."[37]
A 1957 film biography, The Buster Keaton Story, starred Donald O'Connor as Keaton. The screenplay, by Sidney Sheldon (who also directed the film), was vaguely based on his life, but contained many factual errors and merged his three wives into one character. Most of the story centered on his drinking problem. The 1987 documentary, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, which won two Emmy Awards and was directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, is considered a much more accurate telling of Keaton’s story.[38]
In 1994, caricaturist Al Hirschfeld penned a series of silent film stars for the United States Post Office, including Rudolph Valentino and Keaton.[39] Hirschfeld said that modern film stars were more difficult to depict, that silent film comedians such as Laurel and Hardy and Keaton "looked like their caricatures".[40]
Keaton's physical comedy is cited by Jackie Chan in his autobiography documentary Jackie Chan: My Story as being the primary source of inspiration for his own brand of self-deprecating physical comedy.
Comedian Richard Lewis stated that Keaton was his prime inspiration, and spoke of having a close friendship with Keaton's widow Eleanor. Lewis was particularly moved by the fact that Eleanor said Lewis' eyes looked like Keaton's.[41]

 Pork pie hats

Keaton seated, in costume, wearing his signature pork pie hat, circa 1939.
Keaton designed and modified his own pork pie hats during his career. In 1964, he told an interviewer that in making "this particular pork pie", he "started with a good Stetson and cut it down", stiffening the brim with sugar water.[42] The hats were often destroyed during Keaton's wild film antics; some were given away as gifts and some were snatched by souvenir hunters. Keaton said he was lucky if he used only six hats in making a film. Keaton estimated that he and his wife Eleanor made thousands of the hats during his career. Keaton observed that during his silent period, such a hat cost him around two dollars; at the time of his interview, he said, they cost almost $13.[42]

 Keaton in music

In 1987 Italian singer-songwriters Claudio Lolli and Francesco Guccini wrote a song, Keaton, about his work in Italy on the film Due Marines e un Generale


 See also


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, February 2, 1966, page 63.
  2. ^ a b Roger Ebert: The Films of Buster Keaton.
  3. ^ Greatest Film Directors and Their Best Films.
  4. ^ Orson Welles interview, from the Kino Nov 10, 2009 Blu-Ray edition of The General
  5. ^ "bfi:Sight & Sound: Top ten". Retrieved November 18, 2005.
  6. ^ a b c Meade, Marion (1997). Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase. Da Capo. p. 16. ISBN 0-306-80802-1.
  7. ^ Keith Stokes. "Buster Keaton Museum - Piqua, Kansas". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  8. ^ Turner Classic Movies website.
  9. ^ Telescope: Deadpan an interview with Buster Keaton, 1964 interview of Buster and Eleanor Keaton by Fletcher Markle for the CBC.
  10. ^ a b c "PART I: A Vaudeville Childhood". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  11. ^ "Buster Keaton". February 1, 1966. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  12. ^ "PART II:The Flickers". October 13, 1924. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  13. ^ Martha R. Jett. "My Career at the Rear / Buster Keaton in World War I".
  14. ^ Master Sergeant Jim Ober. "Buster Keaton: Comedian, Soldier". California State Military Museum.
  15. ^ Maltin, Leonard, The Great Movie Comedians, Bell Publishing, 1978
  16. ^ "Reviews : The General/Steamboat Bill Jr". The DVD Journal. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  17. ^ Thomson, David, Have you Seen...?, Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2008, p. 767.
  18. ^ Perez Gilberto 'The Material Ghost—On Keaton and Chaplin' 1998
  19. ^ Trahair, Lisa. "The Narrative-Machine: Buster Keaton’s Cinematic Comedy, Deleuze’s Recursion Function and the Operational Aesthetic". 2004.
  20. ^ "Moving Pictures: Buster Keaton’s ‘General’ Pulls In To PFA. Category: Arts & Entertainment from The Berkeley Daily Planet - Friday November 10, 2006". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  21. ^ a b "". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b Okuda, Ted; Watz, Edward (1986). The Columbia Comedy Shorts. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 139. ISBN 0-89950-181-8.
  24. ^ "Series Details". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  25. ^ ""The Donna Reed Show" A Very Merry Christmas (1958)". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  26. ^ Meade, Marion (1997). Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase. Da Capo. p. 284. ISBN 0-306-80802-1.
  27. ^ Bosley Crowther (August 4, 1960). "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)". New York Times.
  28. ^ "Buster Keaton". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  29. ^ Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, Chap. 3, Thames Television, 1987
  30. ^ "Buster Keaton Profile". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  31. ^ McPherson, Edward, Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat, 2005
  32. ^ "The House Next Door: 5 for the Day: James Mason". August 24, 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  33. ^ "Buster Keaton's Second Wife Sues Him for Divorce". Reading Eagle. July 18, 1935.,3248409. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  34. ^ Dardis, Tom, Buster Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down, 1996
  35. ^ "Buster Keaton, 70, Dies on Coast. Poker-Faced Comedian of Films.". New York Times. February 2, 1966. Retrieved July 4, 2008. "Buster Keaton, the poker-faced comic whose studies in exquisite frustration amused two generations of film audiences, died of lung cancer today at his home in suburban Woodland Hills. Keaton was 70."
  36. ^ Turner Classic Movies.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Severo, Richard. "The Buster Keaton Story - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  39. ^ Associated Press, Polly Anderson, January 20, 2003. "Famed Caricaturist Al Hirschfeld Dies".
  40. ^ Leopold, David. Hirschfeld's Hollywood, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, p. 20.
  41. ^ TCM voice-over, October 2011, "Buster Keaton Month".
  42. ^ a b "How To Make A Porkpie Hat. Buster Keaton, interviewed in 1964 at the Movieland Wax Museum by Henry Gris". Retrieved February 17, 2010.

 Further reading

  • Agee, James, "Comedy's Greatest Era" from Life (September 5, 1949), reprinted in Agee on Film (1958) McDowell, Obolensky, (2000) Modern Library
  • Keaton, Buster (with Charles Samuels), My Wonderful World of Slapstick (1960) Doubleday, (1982) Da Capo Press ISBN 0-306-80178-7
  • Blesh, Rudi, Keaton (1966) The Macmillan Company ISBN 0-02-511570-7
  • Lahue, Kalton C., World of Laughter: The Motion Picture Comedy Short, 1910-1930 (1966) University of Oklahoma Press
  • Lebel, Jean-Patrick, Buster Keaton (1967) A.S. Barnes
  • Brownlow, Kevin, "Buster Keaton" from The Parade’s Gone By (1968) Alfred A. Knopf, (1976) University of California Press
  • McCaffrey, Donald W., 4 Great Comedians: Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Langdon (1968) A.S. Barnes
  • Robinson, David, Buster Keaton (1969) Indiana University Press, in association with British Film Institute
  • Robinson, David, The Great Funnies: A History of Film Comedy (1969) E.P. Dutton
  • Durgnat, Raymond, "Self-Help with a Smile" from The Crazy Mirror: Hollywood Comedy and the American Image (1970) Dell
  • Maltin, Leonard, Selected Short Subjects (first published as The Great Movie Shorts, 1972) Crown Books, (revised 1983) Da Capo Press
  • Gilliatt, Penelope, "Buster Keaton" from Unholy Fools: Wits, Comics, Disturbers of the Peace (1973) Viking
  • Mast, Gerald, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies (1973, 2nd ed. 1979) University of Chicago Press
  • Kerr, Walter, The Silent Clowns (1975) Alfred A. Knopf, (1990) Da Capo Press ISBN 0-394-46907-0
  • Anobile, Richard J. (ed.), The Best of Buster: Classic Comedy Scenes Direct from the Films of Buster Keaton (1976) Crown Books
  • Yallop, David, The Day the Laughter Stopped: The True Story of Fatty Arbuckle (1976) St. Martin's Press
  • Byron, Stuart and Weis, Elizabeth (eds.), The National Society of Film Critics on Movie Comedy (1977) Grossman/Viking
  • Moews, Daniel, Keaton: The Silent Features Close Up (1977) University of California Press
  • Everson, William K., American Silent Film (1978) Oxford University Press
  • Maltin, Leonard, The Great Movie Comedians (1978) Crown Books
  • Dardis, Tom, Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down (1979) Scribners, (2004) Limelight Editions
  • Benayoun, Robert, The Look of Buster Keaton (1983) St. Martin's Press
  • Staveacre, Tony, Slapstick!: The Illustrated Story (1987) Angus & Robertson Publishers
  • Edmonds, Andy, Frame-Up!: The Shocking Scandal That Destroyed Hollywood's Biggest Comedy Star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1992) Avon Books
  • Kline, Jim, The Complete Films of Buster Keaton (1993) Carol Pub. Group
  • Meade, Marion, Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase (1995) HarperCollins
  • Rapf, Joanna E. and Green, Gary L., Buster Keaton: A Bio-Bibliography (1995) Greenwood Press
  • Oldham, Gabriella, Keaton's Silent Shorts: Beyond the Laughter (1996) Southern Illinois University Press
  • Horton, Andrew, Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. (1997) Cambridge University Press
  • Bengtson, John, Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton (1999) Santa Monica Press
  • Knopf, Robert, The Theater and Cinema of Buster Keaton (1999) Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-00442-0
  • Keaton, Eleanor, Buster Keaton Remembered (2001) Harry N. Abrams ISBN 0-8109-4227-5
  • Mitchell, Glenn, A – Z of Silent Film Comedy (2003) B.T. Batsford Ltd.
  • McPherson, Edward, Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat (2005) Newmarket Press ISBN 1-55704-665-4
  • Oderman, Stuart, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography of the Silent Film Comedian (2005) McFarland & Co.
  • Neibaur, James L., Arbuckle and Keaton: Their 14 Film Collaborations (2006) McFarland & Co.
  • Keaton, Buster, Buster Keaton: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series) (2007) University Press of Mississippi
  • Brighton, Catherine, Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton (2008) Roaring Brook Press (An illustrated children's book about Keaton's career)
  • Smith, Imogen Sara, Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy (2008) Gambit Publishing ISBN 978-0-9675917-4-2
  • Carroll, Noel, Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Physical Humor, and Bodily Coping (2009) Wiley-Blackwell
  • Neibaur, James L., The Fall of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures, and Columbia (2010) Scarecrow Press

 External links

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Buster Keaton was not used to the way they did things at MGM and the way they made movies: he also didn't like it that the studio bosses thought they knew more about making his movies than he did himself. This was the source of a lot of the trouble that he had with that studio in this period. However, his movies remained popular and were consistant moneymakers in spite of all the interference, which only seemed to prove to the studio bosses that they were right. After he was fired by MGM, he was considered unreliable by the movie industry and he was no longer considered a star. For much of the rest of the thirties he would be reduced to making two-reel comedies.

The decline of Keaton's career was paralleled by problems in his personal life, and his wife Natalie Talmadge divorced him in 1932, the year that SPEAK EASILY was made. Keaton's drinking has frequently been cited as one of the causes: he tended to put much of the blame for problems in the marriage on the rest of the Talmadge family, who evidently thought he wasn't good enough for Natalie. Keaton also said that Natalie accused him of running around with all the girls in his movies, accusations he tended to discount.

Although Buster Keaton didn't mention Thelma Todd in his autobiography, he did mention going on board the "Joyita" and talking with Roland West shortly before the divorce. It is not surprising that Keaton knew Roland West as they both knew Joseph Schenck.

Buster Keaton thought that SPEAK EASILY was the best of his MGM talkies even though it was made under the same unfavorable conditions as the other movies he made for them in this period. He thought it had a better story. It was based on the story FOOTLIGHTS by Clarence Buddington Kelland. Some commentators have remarked that this was more of a Buster Keaton story than FREE AND EASY, for example, which doesn't really have a story centered on Keaton's character, although he was in it as one of the characters.

Keaton studies his script on the set.

Keaton and the chorus.

The show needed to be revamped, so... they brought in a vamp.

The triangle of Buster Keaton, Thelma Todd, and Ruth Selwyn.

There was a lot of drinking in the movies during prohibition, which wouldn't be repealed until 1933.

Evidently the studio bosses in real life thought they had complaints against Buster Keaton's morals. The studio bosses themselves were immoral hypocrites.

Since this isn't really supposed to be an immoral story, nothing much happens, but Buster Keaton and Thelma Todd fall asleep and both are surprised to see the other still there when they wake up the next morning.

The blonde thinks she has him now, but the professor isn't as dumb as she thinks, and manages to wiggles out of her clutches even if he doesn't really have the money she's after.

Outfit Thelma Todd wears in the musical number where she does a sort of bubble dance with all the fake snow coming down in a wintry scene

Ziegfield star Will Mahoney visits Thelma Todd on the set of SPEAK EASILY and they trade hats.

Playing cards between shots on the set of SPEAK EASILY.

Ruth Selwyn was the sister of director Fred M. Wilcox and showgirl Pansy Wilcox, who married Nicholas Schenck. Nicholas Schenck was the brother of Joseph Schenck, so she would have been a sister-in-law to Buster Keaton during that period as Joseph Schenck and Buster Keaton were brothers-in-law as both were married to Talmadge girls. I think Ruth Selwyn was probably also playing a charachter named "Pansy" in this movie because that was the name of her sister.

Dave O'Brien had an uncredited role in SPEAK EASILY. He later went on to star in Pete Smith specialties. Here we see him at the right, with Pete Smith and George Sidney.

Watch SPEAK EASILY online at youtube:

Coming Pictures ( announces that SPEAK EASILY is to be filmed )


Buster Keaton's Hollywood:

Clarence Buddington Kelland Site:

Dave O'Brien

Silents to Talkies: