Often categorized with great silent comedy masters Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton (1895 – 1966) stands out as the most fearless, difficulty-defying physical showman of his era. Combining riotous comedy with heart-stopping risk, Keaton truly understood the place of peril in comedy, and his films offer the best proof that laughs and gasps naturally go hand-in-hand. An intuitive actor and deft choreographer of sight gags, Keaton’s films exhibit a surprising subtlety, and a beauty in composition that rivals the best silent directors of any genre.
As a very young child, Keaton toured in vaudeville with his parents and trained from an early age to be hurled and swung about for chuckles. Whether being thrown into an orchestra pit or through a bass drum (hence the nickname “Buster”), he would emerge from these alarming stunts with a deadpan expression that brought down the house. This would eventually be part of his grown-up onscreen signature: a solemn mug in the face of uproarious disaster. This contradiction is at the heart of all of Keaton’s films, and is seen most terrifically in his finest works, including the railroad thrill-ride THE GENERAL (in which Keaton famously sits on the front of a moving locomotive), the seafaring romp THE NAVIGATOR (complete with a scuba-diving sequence) and the fantasy detective comedy SHERLOCK JR. (during which Keaton actually fractured his neck while performing a dangerous stunt).
"It's said that Chaplin wanted you to like him, but Keaton didn't care. I think he cared, but was too proud to ask. Buster survives tornadoes, waterfalls, avalanches of boulders and falls from great heights, and never pauses to take a bow: He has his eye on his goal. And his movies, seen as a group, are like a sustained act of optimism in the face of adversity; surprising how, without asking, he earns our admiration and tenderness." - Roger Ebert
Santa Monica, CA