The extraordinary Buster Keaton. Need I say more?
Keaton, like Chaplin before him, came from vaudeville and brought to the screen an audience-tested sense of comic timing, years of well-honed slapstick stunts and a contortionist’s agility. That was his stock in trade when he went to work in short comedies with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle but, by the time he went solo in 1920, the movies had given the Great Stone Face a whole new way of looking at comedy. The former stage comic warped gags until they left the plane of reality in such shorts as THE PLAYHOUSE (1921) and THE FROZEN NORTH (1922) and toyed with the very nature of cinema in his hilarious SHERLOCK JR. (1924), where his meek projectionist hero takes a logic-defying leap into the silver screen. In many ways, Keaton was the cinema’s first modernist, an old fashioned romantic with a 20th century mind behind the deadpan visage.
Chaplin railed against technology. Keaton took to it like a kid to Tinkertoys. From his third solo short THE SCARECROW (1920), where a one room bachelor pad is transformed into an automatic house via a Rube Goldberg tangle of ropes, pulleys, toy trains and trap doors (the gag was reworked and polished for THE NAVIGATOR), through his masterpieces THE GENERAL (1926) and STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928), Keaton displayed a knack of becoming one with mechanical world. Sometimes it was a nemesis, sometime an ally, but it consistently proved an unfailing straight man.
Keaton may have revered the gag but he always wove them into the fabric his stories. In SEVEN CHANCE (1925), when groom-to-be Buster awakens in a church of hungry brides, all intent on marrying the potential millionaire, the ensuing chase (a mad image of a flood of white-clad women storming down city streets like a conquering army) sets in motion a chain of increasingly inspired comic set pieces. By the climax, even nature joins the chase; it’s just Buster against the world. Call it pluck. Call it tenacity. In the face of adversity, the Great Stone Face rises to the occasion and gets his girl with perseverance, ingenuity and unflagging determination, like a pratfalling Horatio Alger with death-defying stunts and a deadpan double take.
– Sean Axmaker
The High SignTHE HIGH SIGN was Buster Keaton's first independent effort but he believed the film retained too much of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's style of comedy and not enough of his own. He shelved the film and made ONE WEEK instead. THE HIGH SIGN was released only after Keaton broke his ankle and Joseph M....Watch Movie
One WeekBuster Keaton's first masterpiece, ONE WEEK is a joke title lost on most twenty-first century viewers unaware of Elinor Glyn's notorious novel "Three Weeks." The front of a two-story house collapsing on Buster, with the window-opening miraculously preventing his injury, that was first...Watch Movie
The PlayhouseAccording to Rudi Blesh (author of a biography on the "great stone face"), Buster Keaton got the idea for THE PLAYHOUSE from a vaudeville appearance by Annette Kellerman in front of one hundred mirrors, so the audience saw one-hundred-and-one Kellermans. Adding to this, Keaton's memories of his...Watch Movie
NeighborsNEIGHBORS is notable for its acrobatic climax involving "The Flying Escalantes" (Buster Keaton would enlist their talents again for his 1934 two-reeler ALLEZ-OOP) as well as the appearance of Joe Keaton portraying (naturally) Buster's father. Virginia Fox, his most frequent leading lady, makes...Watch Movie
The Haunted HouseBuster Keaton, on the run, hides in an abandoned house where a visiting opera company of "Faust" also seeks refuge. The film's great moment is a dream sequence in which Buster dreams he is an angel ascending to heaven. At Saint Peter's gate he is rejected and slides down a...Watch Movie
The BoatTHE BOAT, conceived as a companion piece to ONE WEEK, finds Buster Keaton building a thirty-five foot family cruiser. It was Keaton's most commercially successful silent two-reel comedy and ranks among his best works. The classic sequence of this boat launch has Buster (the proud owner and...Watch Movie
The PalefaceTHE PALEFACE is Buster Keaton's comic exploration of the Western dramas that were popular in American cinemas at the time. A group of oil prospectors are swindling a group of Native Americans out of their own lands. The Indian chief proclaims to his tribe: "Kill the first white man who comes...Watch Movie
CopsOne of Buster Keaton's greatest and most famous comedies, COPS is universally enjoyed for the inventive comedy and amazing chase sequences. However, its darker aspects (Keaton's use of an anarchists bomb risked painful reminders of the horse and wagon, similar to the one Buster drives, that...Watch Movie
The Frozen NorthA parody of the Western melodramas of William S. Hart, THE FROZEN NORTH was filmed partly on location near Truckee, California, and the intertitles drew from Robert Service's "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." Charles Chaplin later used Truckee for his masterpiece THE GOLD RUSH and...Watch Movie
Day DreamsDAY DREAMS has as its structure a series of comparisons between how Buster Keatons's sweetheart (Renee Adoree, later a prominent film star) interprets Buster's letters to her versus the reality of his efforts to make good. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is believed to have directed some of this film...Watch Movie
Our HospitalityLike his 1926 film THE GENERAL, this elaborate historical comedy broadened the boundaries of slapstick and proved that Keaton was not just a comedian, he was an artist. Keaton stars as youthful dreamer Willie McKay, who travels westward on a rickety locomotive to claim his birthright only to find...Watch Movie
Three AgesA brilliant historical satire teeming with inventive flourishes, Buster Keaton's THREE AGES is a silent comedy of truly epic proportions. This clever parody of D. W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE follows Buster's hard-luck romantic adventures throughout world history: from the dawn of man in the Stone...Watch Movie
The Love NestBuster Keaton's final silent short before moving into features, THE LOVE NEST takes to the high seas for slapstick verging on tragedy. Buster leaves on a seasick voyage after being spurned by his usual leading lady, Virginia Fox. He soon finds himself aboard a whaling ship working for a...Watch Movie
Sherlock Jr.Widely regarded as one of the most visually inventive silent comedies ever made, SHERLOCK JR. offers fast-paced slapstick as well as a brilliant deconstruction of the filmmaking process. Buster Keaton stars as a movie theatre projectionist who dreams of becoming a super-sleuth and, in one...Watch Movie
The NavigatorA precursor to his classic THE GENERAL (only centered around a 500-foot steamship rather than a Civil War locomotive), THE NAVIGATOR demonstrates Buster Keaton's ability to transform complex machinery into large-scale comedy props. In a return to the "pampered youth" role he had played in THE...Watch Movie
Seven ChancesThis dazzling comedy showcases Buster Keaton’s genius for super-sized slapstick as it tells the story of an eligible young bachelor who must marry by 7:00pm in order to receive a $7 million inheritance. After bungling a proposal to his longtime sweetheart (Ruth Dwyer), Jimmie (Keaton) embarks on...Watch Movie
Go WestA fascinating alternative to the manic stunt work and elaborate sight gags that distinguish the films of Buster Keaton, GO WEST offers a rare and satisfying glimpse of his talent for more expressive comedy: charming moments of intimate humor flavored with rich pathos. Heeding the expansionist...Watch Movie
Battling ButlerThe greatest box-office success of all his independent comedies, BATTLING BUTLER is a rarely-seen gem that mingles Buster Keaton's deadpan demeanor and awesome physical agility with a particularly dramatic storyline. Keaton stars as Alfred Butler, a fragile young man whose father sends him into...Watch Movie
The GeneralConsistently ranked among the greatest films ever made, Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL is so brilliantly conceived and executed that it continues to inspire awe and laughter with every viewing. Rejected by the Confederate army as unfit and taken for a coward by his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marian...Watch Movie
Mixed MagicNot only is the idea of Buster Keaton as a magician's assistant a good one, ]much of the film is done without dialogue and is all the better for it. In its best moments, MIXED MAGIC reminds the viewer of one of Keaton's finest short films: THE PLAY HOUSE, in which he wreaked havoc behind the...Watch Movie
Grand Slam OperaParodying the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show (a forerunner of television's Gong Show), GRAND SLAM OPERA is a comedic tour-de-force with ample displays of Buster Keaton's dancing and slapstick skills. Although Buster contributed sequences and gags to nearly every film he...Watch Movie
Love Nest on WheelsLOVE NEST ON WHEELS was Buster Keaton's swan song for Educational Films Corporation of America (which was to go bust in 1939). Perhaps because of this, the film is full of family and friends. No fewer than three of Buster's family appear, as well as the ever-reliable Bud...Watch Movie
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- Comedy / Slapstick
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- Crime / Criminal / Contract Killer
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- Silent / Silent Comedy
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- Sport / Boxing
- War / U.S. Civil War
Buster Keaton is a vitamin supplement for the Spirit. His movies replenish and revitalize us, and should be watched on a regular basis. Surreal absurdity, engineered and executed with mathematical...
Reading that Keaton felt this entry was more in the style of Arbuckle is only slightly true; the stone face is already well in place and as always the athletic...
Oh, oh, I am going to get in trouble here. But I didn't think this film was particularly funny at all. I can see it as perhaps being interesting as...
Perfection. Nothing Chaplin did in this area comes close to this.. The female lead is spunky and attractive and a perfect mate for Buster- she takes falls and knockdowns every...