October 4th marks the birthday of a cinematic icon- Buster Keaton, the Great Stone Face. To honor the man, I’ve put together a series of photos that represent a tremendous career in cinema. These film stills all say so much about several aspects of his career. The expression is that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, then this collection of stills says nearly as much about Keaton as Keaton himself ever uttered on film.
It’s impossible to talk about Keaton without mentioning his extraordinary dangerous feats. Keaton constantly put himself in peril, all for the sake of humor.
In order: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928); The Balloonatic (1923); One Week (1920); The General (1927); Sherlock, Jr. (1924); Seven Chances (1925); Convict 13 (1920)
In order: The Cameraman (1928); The Electric House (1922); Seven Chances (1925); College (1927)
The Great Stone Face
One of Keaton’s trademarks was his emotionless, deadpan expression regardless of the chaos around him. The juxtaposition of stoicism with a world in disarray was at the heart of his comedy. It earned him the nickname “The Great Stone Face”.
In order: The Goat (1921); The General (1927); College (1927); Returning from France in 1934
Originality and Experimentation
Part of what allowed Keaton to succeed was his intense curiosity about filmmaking- what could be done, special effects, tearing film apart and putting it back together in ways that hadn’t been done before.
In order: Sherlock, Jr. (1924); The Playhouse (1921); filmed underwater in The Navigator (1924); a binocular-eye view of Keaton imitating a chimpanzee in The Playhouse (1921)
The Down on his Luck Ladies Man
Keaton frequently posed as a guy who was down on his luck, chasing after the object of his affection. He didn’t always get the girl, but that only served to make his dour, expressionless face that much more effective.
In order: One Week (1920); The Love Nest (1923); The Navigator (1924); The Scarecrow (1920)
The Long Reach of Influence
Keaton’s career goes all the way back to Fatty Arbuckle before anyone knew who Keaton was. He experienced his impressive peak during the 1920’s. Afterwards, despite a massive lull in popularity during his MGM years and the two decades afterward, Keaton’s charms endured. Out of respect for his talents, Keaton continued to get screen time until he died. And he remains an icon of cinema, one of the titans of both comedy and silent film.
In order: With Fatty Arbuckle in Good Night Nurse (1918); Sunset Boulevard (1950); with Charlie Chaplin in Limelight (1952); with Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)