Thursday, May 24, 2012

Favorite Films of Buster Keaton

Anyone familiar with by blog, and especially my tumblr, knows how much I love the silent film comedian, Buster Keaton. To be honest, it hasn't been a long affair - I discovered him back in October when TCM had the entire month dedicated to Keaton films. But I was hooked immediately. Needless to say, I stayed up as late as I could on Sundays so I could be mesmerized by his skilled acrobatics, hilarious stunts, and expression-filled "stone" face. And that wasn't enough. I bought a box set containing the bulk of his silent films and I've also gotten a few smaller collections that are the numerous short films he did later in life (after MGM screwed him over) that never came close to the golden years of his silent films (though, in my opinion, they're still fun to watch. It's a treat to hear Buster's voice and he is, even without creative license, still as talented as he had always been).

Silent film, in general, has been an exciting new world for me. I discovered it in the fall - my gateway drug, in a sense, had been Mary Pickford. Even though she was a famous actress that did so much for film as we know it today, getting a hold of her movies is extremely hard (and the ones that are available are super expensive). I'm hoping that, like with Buster, having TCM dedicate a month to her will help fix that. So although I'd love to kick back with a bunch of her films, I had to expand my exploration of silent films before finishing with her movies. I tumbled right into Buster at that time, haha. 

The great thing about silent film is that, when you watch one, it feels like you're being told a secret. The characters are delightful, the music funny and sometimes extremely catchy, and, as a viewer, you are engaged with the film at a higher level because you have to watch the character's expressions and fill in the gaps. It's not that hard, really. A good silent film is easy to follow. 

Buster Keaton is fantastic in those regards. Sure, he's funny, but humor has never been enough for me to engage in a particular actor or actress. He's an artist; his films are surreal and risky and Buster knows how to grab a viewer's attention. Of course, it helps that he's been performing acrobatics and athletic feats since he was a baby (no joke) and that it's a marvel to watch him fall gracefully and dive under moving cars and dodge trains.... yep. The characters he plays are consistently sympathetic, charming, and melancholy. If you're a fan of Ziggy comics, you'll connect with him immediately, haha. 

I could probably go on and on about him until I'm blue in the face, but I thought that it'd be better to show, rather than tell, my favorite Buster films. I've chosen gifs from my top favorites in two categories - feature-length films (45 minute - 70 minute movies) and short films (only about 20 minutes). The gifs respectfully come from tumblr, haha. 

Most of Buster's films can be found online, so I've linked the titles up to youtube. If you like one, please click away! This post is inspired by my friend, Namie who recently posted about her favorite studio Ghibli Films

Feature-length Films

1. Sherlock Jr.

2. Seven Chances

3. The Cameraman 
(The only one not available in full - so I just linked a clip of Buster getting a kiss, haha)

Short Films

1. The Playhouse

2. The Scarecrow 


  1. No disagreements. =)

    I discovered Buster some years back. I was rewatching a bunch of my favorite old music videos from when I was little and happened upon the Smashing Pumpkins song/video "Tonight Tonight." It was a favorite song of mine from way back, and I liked the video. Turns out, it was an homage to Melies. So I looked up Melies and from there got into old silent films, the 1920s-1950s, noir, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, jazz, art deco, etc etc etc.

    Strange how we find things.

    Here's the link to the music video. You might not like the song or the band, but it's a great homage to Melies =)

    1. Yes, it is strange! I feel like it's almost magical how we discover things - and it helps that we have the internet in this case, haha.

      Oh, yes! I've seen that music video tons of times! I had a friend who showed me "Tonight Tonight" a few years back and I go back and watch it when I need a boost of inspiration :) I hadn't known anything about Melies at the time, but I guess Hugo really opened my eyes to the birth of film, haha.

  2. I just got done watching Seven Chances--and I'm so glad you've introduced me to silent films! They're the best thing ever!

    You know, after reading this post I don't suppose Ernest in Olivia was based off of Buster Keaton? :)

    1. Hannnnah! You watched Seven Chances? Wah, that's awesome! How did you like all the stunts with the rocks and stuff? It's amazing to think that he really did all of that. No doubles :) But seriously, I don't see how any of those girls refused him ;)

      About Ernest.... hahahahahaha! Yes, indeed! I'm sure there's a bunch of readers who don't even know - so you're a part of an inside joke, in a way ;)

    2. I liked the stunts; I thought it was amazing how he was sliding under cars and crashing into trees and stuff. Though some of those stunts looked like they really hurt. Like when the tree came crashing down on him and when he was ran over by one of the boulders (though I'm sure those were fake just in case).

      I did a little Googling on him after watching Sherlock Jr., and I learned that he actually broke his neck during the water spout scene! He didn't know it until ten years later, though.

      And as for Ernest, I think I need to reread Olivia again in this new light. :D

    3. Yes! I could never be as graceful as that, haha. The boulders were fake, but they stilled weighed a lot, I think (I've read way too many critical books this past semester, haha).

      Oh, you watched Sherlock Jr. too? I love it for so many reasons, but one of them is that it's perfection within only around 45 minutes. It's short, but so much cool stuff happens! The ending is very cute too with Buster copying the actor on screen :)

      Yes!!! It's crazy how he had no idea that he broke his neck O_O

      Haha, I'm sure you'll find some interesting new layers. I'm planning on rewriting it in first-person since I've hit a wall with my two main characters not speaking -_- (Why didn't I see this problem before? haha). But I'll probably start on that later this summer. The story is basically going to be the same - I just have to start using I and me, haha.

  3. You like Buster Keaton? Huh. I didn't know that... ;) (Ignore me, I can't help but be facetious. :P) I'm glad you did this post, because now I have a better idea of where to start in my Keaton-watching! Because I've been thinking for a while I should watch at least one, since I have grown quite fond of his face, hehe.

    1. Bwahaha, you got me there. I don't think I could possibly surprise you with anything at this point :)

      Well, I've been kind of nervous about making a Buster Keaton post, which is why it has been so belated. I didn't know where to start! But seeing Namie's post was just the thing! It was fun to find the gifs too (and hard to choose!).

      I didn't post about it, but if you like more nautical stories, there's a bunch of those that Buster did. The Navigator movie is the best :D

      Awww, his face *_*

  4. Looking at him makes you also nostalgic for the lost art of comedy expressed through the body, which those silent films conveyed so well.