Buster Keaton is an American actor known in the world of cinema as a “comedian without a smile.” The popularity of the artist at the peak of his career was comparable with the demand for Charlie Chaplin. The “stone face” of American silent cinema, Buster Keaton entertained people without sounds and facial expressions. A subtle and insightful artist made the audience cry with laughter.
He was a stuntman, actor, director and true artist of the cinema era. Authorship of Keaton belongs to the films “Sherlock Jr.”, “Navigator” and “General”. In 1960, he received an honorary Oscar for his contribution to the development of cinema.
Childhood and youth
The comedian’s real name is Joseph Frank Keaton. He was born on October 4, 1895 in the American city of Picois in Kansas and was the firstborn of Joseph Keaton and Myra Cutler. Later, two more children appeared in the family.
My father owned a vagrant troupe called the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company, where he performed in a duet with his wife. He danced, performed acrobatic performances and showed funny sketches. Mother played musical instruments, including a saxophone, which was very rare for that time. The company also featured the famous magician Harry Houdini.
It is curious that it was Houdini, a friend of the family, who came up with the nickname Baster. Once the boy fell down the stairs and miraculously survived, being caught by a magician. He exclaimed: “What a buster!”, Which meant “This is a bastard!” Since then, Keaton Jr. has been called Baster.
His biography from childhood was full of dramatic incidents: he found himself in the midst of a fire, managed to smash a joint on his finger, was in a railway accident, was injured by a brick from his head and even got into a tornado. Luck Baster could be envied.
Born into an artistic family, the boy could not escape the scene. His debut took place at 3 years old. Buster participated in a room called “3 Keaton” with his parents. His father threw him at his mother, acrobatic stunts ended with falls and amused the audience, because the boy remained calm.
Ordinary citizens complained about the abuse of children by the authorities and the exploitation of the boy’s labor, but judging by Keaton’s recollections, he did not experience any unpleasant sensations. He liked that people laugh and enjoy the show. Over time, Buster began to copy his father, who entertained the public with facial expressions, but his son did it worse. Then the young man came up with a new image: his face now did not express absolutely nothing, and this had an effect.
In 1917, Keaton’s parents divorced due to his father’s affection for alcohol. Buster stopped appearing on the stage of the parent’s show, but managed to get a role in the Broadway production with an unprecedented fee. The director paid him $ 250 per week. Fruitful cooperation interrupted acquaintance with the famous comedian Roscoe Arbuckle.
At that time, the artist was considered the second after Chaplin. He, like many, believed in the magical power of cinema. Roscoe invited Baster to participate in the short film “Butcher’s Assistant”. The tape was released in 1917 and was a success.
The debut was followed by another 14 paintings. The beginning career was interrupted by draft in the army. During the First World War, Keaton became an employee of the infantry division and was sent to France. Returning to his homeland in 1919, he again began to do what he loved and collaborated with a friend. The projects of the two comedians regularly gathered a large box office.
In 1920, Buster decided to try his hand at directing. The first work was the film “Balda” with the participation of Bertie Elstin. By that time, Arbuckle had left the set of comedies, so Keaton led Joseph Schenk’s company. Perseverance and hard work helped to create projects that bring success.
Buster with high returns worked behind the camera and in front of her. Critics noted the expressiveness and equally thorough work in directing and acting. In 1921, the “Theater” tape was released, in which Keaton demonstrated special effects that were amazing for that time. Contrary to tradition, the director used moving cameras for filming and became a real innovator.
The company “Comic Films”, which he led, changed its name to “Buster Keaton Production”, the actor had a small share among the shareholders. There were no scriptwriters at the studio, and the storyline was composed by the director during the filming. Gags and improvisation were the basis of Keaton’s paintings. Operators did not stop shooting for a minute without sparing the film.
Keaton made 2 films a year, and in 1923 he began working with a full meter. The debut in this direction was the film “Three Centuries”, a parody of the painting “Intolerance” of 1916. The 1924th gave the cinema 2 legendary films. The first is called “Sherlock Jr.” and describes the story of a projectionist dreaming about a detective. Keaton starred and performed tricks himself. He will discover the neck injury received during filming only after 10 years.
An innovative look at the production, the spirit of the experiment, experiments with multiple images and overlay frames – all this distinguished the films of Buster Keaton.