Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The Great Stone Face, Buster Keaton, was born was born Joseph Frank Keaton in 1895 Kansas.  He came from a vaudeville family -- his father was once partners with Harry Houdini in a traveling patent medicine show -- and began performing with his parents when he was three.  A goodly part of the act had Buster taking pratfalls, which led to child abuse charges against his parents; the charges were dismissed when it was proven that Buster was suffered no injury, bruise, or broken bone; he became billed as "The Little Boy Who Couldn't Be Damaged."  The secret, of course, was extensive practice.  Buster learned at a very young age how to take a pratfall -- something that would help define his physical comedy in silent movies.

One of the truly great comics of the silent era, Buster distinguished himself as an actor, producer and director.  Keaton got his start working with Fatty Arbuckle who became a close friend.  With the advent of sound motion pictures, Keaton signed with MGM -- a grave mistake because that studio limited his creative genius and misused his talents.  After a stint in Europe, he returned to Hollywood as a gag writer, writing for the Marx Brothers and Red Skelton, among others.  He later advised Lucille Ball on her television series.

During the 1940's Keaton relaxed a bit an concentrated mainly on character work in feature films.  Television beckoned in the late forties and he starred in a one-off, The Buster Keaton Comedy Show in 1949.  Toward the end of that year, he began The Buster Keaton Show on the then-CBS Los Angeles station KTTV; the show lasted less than four months, closing on April 6, 1950.  Like many early television shows, little has survived -- some isolated clips and this episode, from February 23, 1950.

Later that year, a feature film, The Misadventures of Buster Keaton, was compiled from clips of the show.

Wikipedia notes that Keaton was named the seventh-greatest director by Entertainment Weekly and the 21st greatest male star by the American Film Institute.  Despite Orson Welles' claim that Keaton's The General was "the great comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made,"  The General was voted in 2002 the 15th best film ever made.  My personal opinion?  They still underrated Keaton.


  1. A great talent. I don't remember the show and don't think I ever heard of it before.

  2. As you probably know, a real hero to Robert Bloch, among others...Bloch was croggled to be able to meet, work, and play pickup baseball or softball, with him at the turn of the '60s.