Buster Keaton - Rotten Tomatoes

Buster Keaton



Although his career lacked the resilience of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton may well have been the most gifted comedian to emerge from the cinema's silent era. And while his skills as a gag writer and physical comic were remarkable, Keaton was one clown whose understanding of the film medium was just as great as his talent for taking a pratfall. Keaton, however, had a roller-coaster career in which he fell just as far as he rose, though he was fortunate enough to enjoy a comeback in the later years of his life.



Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895, to Joseph Hallie Keaton and Myra Cutler Keaton, a pair of vaudeville performers. Spending his childhood on the road with his family, he earned the nickname Buster at the age of six months; as legend has it, after the young Keaton fell down a flight of steps at a theater, a magician on the bill, Harry Houdini, said to the lad's father, "What a buster your kid took!" The name stuck, and, by the age of three, the youngster was appearing as part of his parents act whenever they could evade child labor laws. In vaudeville, Keaton developed remarkable talents as an acrobatic comedian with a superb sense of timing, and became a rising star by his teens. His father, however, had developed a serious drinking problem, which strained his relationship with his son and caused serious problems with their very physical stage act, which, in early 1917, Buster left. He appeared in a Broadway comic revue later that year, but the key to Keaton's future came when he met a fellow vaudeville comedian. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was starring in a low-budget two-reel screen comedy, The Butcher Boy, and invited Keaton to play a small role in the picture. The two hit it off and became a successful onscreen team, starring in a long string of comic hits. Fascinated by the medium of film, Keaton soon began writing their pictures, and assisted in directing them; Keaton was soon starring in his own films, as well, though he and Arbuckle remained lifelong close friends.



Keaton developed a distinctive comic style which merged slapstick with a sophisticated sense of visual absurdity, and often included gags which made the most of the film medium, involving props, sets, and visual trickery that would have been impossible on the vaudeville stage. Keaton also developed his personal visual trademark, an unsmiling deadpan demeanor which made his epic-scale gags even funnier. Beginning with his first solo short subjects in 1920, The High Sign and One Week, Keaton became a major star, and after a series of successful two-reelers, including Cops and The Balloonatic, Keaton moved up to feature-length comedies in 1923 with the farcical The Three Ages. Keaton reached the peak of his craft with the features which followed, including Sherlock Jr., Seven Chances, The Navigator, Steamboat Bill, Jr., and the Civil War comedy The General, now universally regarded as Keaton's masterpiece.



Independent producer Joseph M. Schenck was the man behind Fatty Arbuckle's comedies when Keaton came aboard, and they continued to work together when Keaton struck out on his own. Schenck believed in the comic's talent and allowed him to work without interference, resulting in a string of creative and popular triumphs. Then, in 1928 -- and with Keaton's approval -- Schenck sold his contract to the biggest studio in Hollywood, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. While Keaton's first vehicle for MGM, The Cameraman, was up to his usual high standards, he chafed at the studio's interference and insistence that the filmmaker work within the same boundaries as its other employees. With outside writers and directors controlling Keaton with a strong hand, his work suffered tremendously. Coupled with a crumbling marriage (to Natalie Talmadge, whom he wed in 1920), Keaton began to drink heavily. With the advent of sound, MGM seemed to have even less of an idea of what to do with the actor/director, an

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Il Monello vs. Sherlock Jr.
  • Director
2016
92% Notfilm
  • Actor
2015
No Score Yet Les Burlesques Americains
  • Director
2011
No Score Yet 5 Burlesques
  • Director
2010
No Score Yet The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
  • Actor
2005
No Score Yet Industrial Strength Keaton
  • Actor
2005
No Score Yet An Afternoon With Buster Keaton
  • Actor
2001
No Score Yet Hidden Hollywood, Vol. 2: More Treasures From the 20th Century Fox Vaults
  • Actor
2000
No Score Yet Oh, Doctor!
  • Actor
2000
No Score Yet Slapstick, Too!
  • Actor
1998
No Score Yet The Art of Buster Keaton
  • Actor
1995
100% That's Entertainment! III
  • Actor
1994
No Score Yet Memories of Hollywood
  • Actor
1990
83% A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • Erronius
1966
No Score Yet Buster Keaton Rides Again
  • Actor
1965
No Score Yet Sergeant Deadhead
  • Pvt. Blinken
1965
No Score Yet How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
  • Bwana
1965
No Score Yet The Railrodder (The Railroader)
  • Director
  • Actor
1965
80% Beach Blanket Bingo
  • Himself
1965
No Score Yet Film
  • The man
1965
33% Pajama Party
  • Chief Rotten Eagle
1964
75% It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • Jimmy the Crook
1963
No Score Yet 30 Years of Fun
  • Actor
1963
No Score Yet A Few Moments with Buster Keaton & Laurel & Hardy
  • Actor
1963
No Score Yet The Great Chase
  • Actor
1962
No Score Yet The Sound of Laughter
  • Actor
1962
No Score Yet The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Lion tamer
1960
No Score Yet When Comedy Was King
  • Actor
1960
74% Around the World in 80 Days
  • Conductor
1956
97% Limelight
  • Piano Accompanist
1952
98% Sunset Boulevard
  • Himself
1950
No Score Yet The Misadventures of Buster Keaton
  • Actor
1950
71% In the Good Old Summertime
  • Hickey
1949
No Score Yet The Lovable Cheat
  • Goulard
1949
No Score Yet Boom in the Moon
  • Actor
1946
No Score Yet Two Girls and a Sailor
  • Durante's Son
1944
No Score Yet Forever and a Day
  • Dabb's Assistant
1943
No Score Yet Tales of Manhattan
  • Screenwriter
1942
No Score Yet Li'l Abner
  • Lonesome Polecat
1940
No Score Yet The Villain Still Pursued Her
  • William Dalton
1940
No Score Yet New Moon
  • Prisoner "LuLu"
1940
No Score Yet Pardon My Berth Marks
  • Actor
1940
No Score Yet Hollywood Cavalcade
  • Himself
1939
No Score Yet Old Spanish Custom
  • Leander Proudfoot
1936
No Score Yet Allez Oop
  • Director
  • Elmer
1934
No Score Yet What! No Beer?
  • Elmer Butts
1933
No Score Yet Speak Easily
  • Producer
  • Prof. Timolean Zanders Post
1932
No Score Yet The Passionate Plumber
  • Elmer Tuttle
1932
No Score Yet Casanova wider Willen
  • Actor
1931
No Score Yet Sidewalks of New York
  • Homer Van Dine Harmon
1931
No Score Yet The Stolen Jools
  • Policeman
1931
No Score Yet Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
  • Reginald Irving
  • Producer
1931
No Score Yet Doughboys
  • Producer
  • Elmer
1930
No Score Yet Free and Easy (Easy Go)
  • Elmer J. Butts
  • Producer
1930
No Score Yet Slapstick
  • Actor
1930
40% The Hollywood Revue of 1929
  • Himself/Princess Raja
1929
100% Spite Marriage
  • Elmer
1929
100% Steamboat Bill Jr.
  • Director
  • Willie Canfield
1928
100% The Cameraman
  • Buster
  • Producer
1928
88% College
  • A Son
1927
93% The General
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
  • Johnnie Gray
1927
67% Battling Butler
  • Director
  • Alfred Butler
  • Producer
1926
100% Go West
  • Friendless
  • Director
1925
100% Seven Chances
  • Director
  • Jimmy Shannon
1925
94% Sherlock Jr.
  • Director
  • Projectionist/Sherlock, Jr.
1924
100% The Navigator
  • Director
  • Rollo Treadway
1924
100% The Three Ages
  • Producer
  • The Boy
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1923
No Score Yet The Love Nest
  • Actor
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1923
No Score Yet Balloonatic
  • Screenwriter
  • The Young Man
  • Director
1923
96% Our Hospitality
  • William McKay
  • Director
1923
No Score Yet Daydreams
  • Screenwriter
  • Actor
  • Director
1922
No Score Yet Electric House
  • Actor
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1922
No Score Yet My Wife's Relations
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
  • The Husband
1922
No Score Yet Cops
  • Director
  • The Young Man
  • Screenwriter
1922
No Score Yet The Frozen North
  • Director
  • The Bad Man
  • Screenwriter
1922
No Score Yet The Blacksmith
  • Director
  • Blacksmith's assistant
  • Screenwriter
1922
No Score Yet Paleface
  • Director
  • Actor
  • Screenwriter
1922
No Score Yet Seeing Stars
  • Actor
1922
No Score Yet Keaton Festival #1
  • Actor
1922
No Score Yet The Playhouse
  • Mr. Brown
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1921
No Score Yet The Goat
  • The Goat
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1921
No Score Yet Hard Luck
  • Suicidal Boy
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1921
No Score Yet The Haunted House
  • Bank Clerk
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1921
No Score Yet The 'High Sign'
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
  • Actor
1921
No Score Yet The Boat
  • Screenwriter
  • Actor
  • Director
1921
No Score Yet Paleface & The Frozen North
  • Screenwriter
  • Actor
1921
No Score Yet The Scarecrow
  • Screenwriter
  • Farmhand
  • Director
1920
No Score Yet Convict 13
  • Buster
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1920
No Score Yet One Week
  • Man
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1920
No Score Yet The Garage
  • Actor
1920
No Score Yet Neighbors
  • The Boy
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1920
No Score Yet The Saphead
  • Bernie "The Lamb" Van Alstyne
1920
No Score Yet Keaton Festival #2
  • Actor
1920
No Score Yet The Hayseed
  • General Store Manager
1919
No Score Yet Back Stage
  • Stagehand
1919
No Score Yet Keaton Festival #3
  • Actor
1919
No Score Yet The Cook
  • Assistant Chef
1918
No Score Yet Good Night, Nurse!
  • Head Surgeon
1918
No Score Yet The Bell Boy
  • Bellboy
1918
No Score Yet Out West
  • Gambler
1918
No Score Yet Coney Island
  • Rival
1917
No Score Yet The Rough House
  • Actor
  • Director
1917
No Score Yet The Butcher Boy
  • Actor
1917
No Score Yet Buster and Fatty
  • Actor
1917
No Score Yet Fishing Story & The Collapsible Clerk
  • Actor
No Score Yet Great Chase
  • Actor
No Score Yet An Evening With Buster & the Boys
  • Director
No Score Yet Arbuckle Festival
  • Actor

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT
The Twilight Zone
1959-1964
  • Woodrow Mulligan

Quotes from Buster Keaton's Characters