Buster Keaton

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Buster Keaton
Joseph Frank Keaton
BirthplacePiqua, Kansas, USA
Actor, director, producer, writer

Keaton, Buster

(Joseph Francis Keaton), 1895–1966, American movie actor, b. Piqua, Kans. Considered one of the greatest comic actors in film history, Keaton used his considerable acrobatic skills, which he had developed as a child in vaudeville, in many silent comedies in which he portrayed a deadpan hero who survived against incredible odds. Among these movies are The Navigator (1924), The General (1926), and Steamboat Bill Junior (1927). He made a comeback as a supporting actor in such films as Sunset Boulevard (1950), Limelight (1952), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966).


See biographies by R. Blesh (1960), M. Meade (1995), and E. McPherson (2005); J. E. Rapf, Buster Keaton: A Bio-Bibliography (1995); J. Kline, The Complete Films of Buster Keaton (2003); studies by G. Wead and G. Lellis (1977), G. Oldham (1996), and R. Knopf (1999).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Keaton, Buster


(real name, Joseph Francis Keaton). Born Oct. 4, 1896, in Pickway; died Feb. 1, 1966, in Hollywood. American comic actor and motion picture director.

Keaton began playing in movie shorts with the well-known comic R. (Fatty) Arbuckle. In the 1920’s, Keaton’s film comedies The Three Ages, Our Hospitality (both 1923), Sherlock Junior, The Navigator (both 1924), and The General (1926) became world famous. Keaton played the leads in these films and was usually director as well. The comic essence of Keaton’s acting consisted in the incongruity of his deadpan expression with the exciting pace of events in the film. After the advent of sound films, Keaton lost his popularity and thereafter acted only occasionally in featured roles.


Kaluzhinskii, Z. “Baster Kiton.” In Komiki Mirovogo ekrana. Moscow, 1966.
Robinson, D. Buster Keaton [2nd ed.]. London [1970].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Keaton, (Joseph Francis) Buster

(1895–1966) film actor, screenwriter, producer; born in Piqua, Kans. The son of medicine show performers, he joined their acrobatic comedy act at age three; they moved on to vaudeville when he was six and already an accomplished acrobat. He entered films in 1917 with The Butcher Boy, and after brief service in World War I, he made a series of short movies, along with his first feature, The Saphead (1920). By 1923 he was exercising complete artistic control over his films and he had established his persona as a deadpan and agile Everyman undaunted by the most extreme situations. Some of his productions were almost surreal, such as Sherlock, Jr. (1924), in which he played a film projectionist who became involved in the action on the screen; other masterworks include The Boat (1921), The Navigator (1924), and The General (1927). After Keaton signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. in 1928 he lost some control over his films, and not only did his marriage to Natalie Talmadge break up, but he was also troubled by alcoholism and mental illness. He hung on at the margins of the Hollywood film world, but it was his appearances at the circus in Paris in 1947 and then in Chaplin's Limelight (1952) that led to the reappreciation of his comic artistry. His last decade saw him all but overwhelmed by the constant demands on his time and tributes to his genius.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
US actor and war hero Audie Murphy in The Red Badge Of Courage James Cagney with Virginia Mayo, right Mickey Rooney, below Alan Ladd in The Blue Dahlia Buster Keaton pictured in the film The General Harpo Marx in Go West Actor and comedian Dudley Moore with then girlfriend Susan Anton in 1980
"For instance, we have Buster Keaton this year with a guy called Charlie Chase, who is not so well–known but is really one of my personal favourites.
"Bluffton: My Summers with Buster" is a beautiful book that will definitely pique readers' interest in Buster Keaton and his fabulous and hilarious motion pictures and shorts.
GREAT comics inexcusably missing from The Comedians' Comedian included: Max Miller, Frankie Howerd, Dave Allen, Lee Evans (right), Jerry Seinfeld, Jasper Carrott, Buster Keaton, Benny Hill...
Buster Keton is one of the best actor-directors in movie history, and has received biographical attention before--but for true depth don't miss Buster Keaton: Tempest In A Flat Hat: it comes from a young writer who spent over a year repeatedly watching over 60 Keaton films and follows Keaton's career from vaudeville to silent film.
He thought that Hollywood would recognize Lincoln Perry's brilliance at creating Stepin Fetchit and, indeed, reward him with the kind of salary and roles they gave Will Rogers, Wallace Berry, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Eddie Cantor, etc.
Of course, Sechas's Siegfried could be a slapstick character by Tex Avery, Charlie Chaplin, or Buster Keaton. Hugh Kenner called such characters "stoic comedians," figures caught in an economic impasse, failing to accomplish or afford adulthood, accepting their fate.
The General USA, 1926 Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckmann, Eddie Cline
As his conscious and unconscious worlds collapse into each other, Gus becomes a bewildered bundle of uncertainty, an unsteady amalgam of Buster Keaton and almost any Samuel Beckett character.
We have two great classic comedy DVDs free for every reader - Buster Keaton Vol 1 and The Charlie Chaplin Collection Vol 1, each crammed with hilarious stories from two of the greatest comics of all time!