70 (passed away Feb. 1st, 1966)
Oct. 4th, 1895
Piqua, Kansas, USA
Buster Keaton's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
When at six months he tumbled down a flight of stairs unharmed he was given the name "Buster" by Harry Houdini who, along with W.C. Fields, Bill Robinson (I) ("Bojangles"), Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson shared headlines with The Three Keatons: Buster, his father Joe Keaton and mother Myra Keaton. Their act, one of the most dangerous in vaudeville, was about how to discipline a prankster child. Buster was thrown all over the stage and even into the audience. No matter what the stunt, he was poker-faced. By age 21 his father was so alcoholic the stunts became too dangerous to perform and the act dissolved. He first saw a movie studio in March 1917 and on April 23 his debut film, 'Roscoe 'Fatty Arbuckle's The Butcher Boy (1917), was released. He stayed with Fatty through 15 two-reelers, even though he was offered much more to sign with Fox or Warner Bros. after returning from ten months with the U.S. Army (40th Infantry Division) in France. His first full-length feature, The Saphead (1920), established him as a star in his own right. By the middle of 1921 he had his own production company--Buster Keaton Productions--and was writing, directing and starring in his own films. With a small and close team around him, Keaton created some of the most beautiful and imaginative films of the silent era. The General (1926), his favorite, was one of the last films over which he had artistic control. In 1928, he reluctantly signed with MGM after his contract with independent producer Joe Schenk expired. MGM quickly began to enforce their rigid, mechanized style of film-making on Keaton, swamping him with gag-writers and scripts. He fought against it for a time, and the compromise was initially fruitful, his first film for MGM - _Cameraman, The (1928)_ - being one of his finest. But with his creativity becoming increasingly stifled, he began to drink excessively, despondent at having to perform material that was beneath him. Ironically, his films around 1930 were his most successful to date in terms of box-office, which confirmed to MGM that their formula was right. His drinking led to a disregard for schedules and erratic behaviour on the MGM lot, and a disastrous confrontation with Louis Mayer resulted in him being fired. The diplomatic producer Irving Thalberg attempted to smooth things over but Keaton was past caring. By 1932 he was a divorced alcoholic, getting work where he could, mostly in short comedies. In 1935 he entered a mental hospital. MGM rehired him in 1937 as a $100-a-week gag-man (his salary ten years before was more than ten times this amount). The occasional film was a boost to this steady income. In 1947 his career rebounded with a live appearance at Cirque Medrano in Paris. In 1952 James Mason (I), who then owned Keaton's Hollywood mansion, found a secret store of presumably lost nitrate stock of many of Buster's early films; film historian and archivist Raymond Rohauer began a serious collection/preservation of Buster's work. In 1957 Buster appeared with Charles Chaplin in Limelight (1952) and his film biography, The Buster Keaton Story (1957) was released. Two years later he received a special Oscar for his life work in comedy, and he began to receive the accolades he so richly deserved, with festivals around the world honoring his work. He died at 70 years of age.
- Is portrayed by 'Ian Mune' (qv) in _Lucy (2003) (TV)_ (qv) and 'Donald O'Connor (I)' in _The Buster Keaton Story (1957)_ (qv).
- In one scene in the film _Sherlock Jr. (1924)_ (qv) at a train station, he was hanging off of a tube connected to a water basin. The water poured out and washed him on to the track, fracturing his neck. This footage appears in the released film.
- Because most of his childhood was spent on vaudeville with his parents, he had few peers. However, he enjoyed a more regular childhood during his family's annual summer getaways to an Actor's Colony on Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. In fact, the city of Muskegon has erected a historical marker to note his stomping ground.
- His older son was born during his marriage to 'Natalie Talmadge' (qv).
- He became an alcoholic when he his career collapsed around 1930, only kicking his habit and regaining his self-esteem when he married Eleanor Norris ('Eleanor Keaton' (qv)), who was his wife from 1940 to his death in 1966.
- The three top comedians in silent era Hollywood were Keaton, Charlie Chaplin ('Charles Chaplin' (qv)) and 'Harold Lloyd (I)' (qv). All three comics produced, controlled and owned their own films. Keaton was convinced to sell his studio and films to MGM in the 1920s, while Chaplin and Lloyd retained ownership of their films. Chaplin and Lloyd became wealthy, while Keaton endured years of financial and personal problems.
- Loved to play baseball. He would sometimes play baseball between takes on the movie set.
- Not only did Keaton do all his own stunts, but, when needed, he acted as a stunt double for other actors in the films.
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