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Joseph Frank Keaton
October 4, 1895
Piqua, Kansas, United States
||February 1, 1966
Woodland Hills, California, United States
|Cause of death
||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
||Actor, director, producer, writer, stunt performer
Natalie Talmadge (m. 1921; div. 1932)
Mae Scriven (m. 1933; div. 1936)
Eleanor Norris (m. 1940)
Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American actor, director, producer, writer, and stunt performer. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face." Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor–director in the history of the movies". His career declined afterward with a dispiriting loss of his artistic independence when he was hired by MGM, which resulted in a crippling alcoholism that ruined his family life. He recovered in the 1940s, remarried, and revived his career to a degree as an honored comic performer for the rest of his life, earning an Academy Honorary Award in 1959.
Many of Keaton's films from the 1920s, such as Sherlock Jr. (1924), The General (1926), and The Cameraman (1928), remain highly regarded, with the second of these three widely viewed as his masterpiece. Among its strongest admirers was Orson Welles, who stated that The General was cinema's highest achievement in comedy, and perhaps the greatest film ever made. Keaton was recognized as the seventh-greatest film director by Entertainment Weekly, and in 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 21st greatest male star of classic Hollywood cinema.
Keaton was born into a vaudeville family in Piqua, Kansas, the small town where his mother, Myra Keaton (née Cutler), happened to go into labor. He was named "Joseph" to continue a tradition on his father's side (he was sixth in a line bearing the name Joseph Keaton) and "Frank" for his maternal grandfather, who disapproved of his parents' union. Later, Keaton changed his middle name to "Francis". His father was Joseph Hallie "Joe" Keaton, who owned a traveling show with Harry Houdini called the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company, which performed on stage and sold patent medicine on the side.
Agee, James, "Comedy's Greatest Era" from Life (September 5, 1949), reprinted in Agee on Film (1958) McDowell, Obolensky, (2000) Modern Library
- Keaton, Buster (with Charles Samuels), My Wonderful World of Slapstick (1960) Doubleday, (1982) Da Capo Press
Blesh, Rudi, Keaton (1966) The Macmillan Company
- Lahue, Kalton C., World of Laughter: The Motion Picture Comedy Short, 1910–1930 (1966) University of Oklahoma Press
Lebel, Jean-Patrick, Buster Keaton (1967) A.S. Barnes
Brownlow, Kevin, "Buster Keaton" from The Parade’s Gone By (1968) Alfred A. Knopf, (1976) University of California Press
- McCaffrey, Donald W., 4 Great Comedians: Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Langdon (1968) A.S. Barnes
Robinson, David, Buster Keaton (1969) Indiana University Press, in association with British Film Institute
- Robinson, David, The Great Funnies: A History of Film Comedy (1969) E.P. Dutton
Durgnat, Raymond, "Self-Help with a Smile" from The Crazy Mirror: Hollywood Comedy and the American Image (1970) Dell
Maltin, Leonard, Selected Short Subjects (first published as The Great Movie Shorts, 1972) Crown Books, (revised 1983) Da Capo Press
Gilliatt, Penelope, "Buster Keaton" from Unholy Fools: Wits, Comics, Disturbers of the Peace (1973) Viking
Mast, Gerald, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies (1973, 2nd ed. 1979) University of Chicago Press
Kerr, Walter, The Silent Clowns (1975) Alfred A. Knopf, (1990) Da Capo Press
- Anobile, Richard J. (ed.), The Best of Buster: Classic Comedy Scenes Direct from the Films of Buster Keaton (1976) Crown Books
Yallop, David, The Day the Laughter Stopped: The True Story of Fatty Arbuckle (1976) St. Martin's Press
Byron, Stuart and Weis, Elizabeth (eds.), The National Society of Film Critics on Movie Comedy (1977) Grossman/Viking
- Moews, Daniel, Keaton: The Silent Features Close Up (1977) University of California Press
Everson, William K., American Silent Film (1978) Oxford University Press
- Maltin, Leonard, The Great Movie Comedians (1978) Crown Books
Dardis, Tom, Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down (1979) Scribners, (2004) Limelight Editions
Benayoun, Robert, The Look of Buster Keaton (1983) St. Martin's Press
- Staveacre, Tony, Slapstick!: The Illustrated Story (1987) Angus & Robertson Publishers
- Edmonds, Andy, Frame-Up!: The Shocking Scandal That Destroyed Hollywood's Biggest Comedy Star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1992) Avon Books
- Kline, Jim, The Complete Films of Buster Keaton (1993) Carol Pub. Group
Meade, Marion, Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase (1995) HarperCollins
- Rapf, Joanna E. and Green, Gary L., Buster Keaton: A Bio-Bibliography (1995) Greenwood Press
- Oldham, Gabriella, Keaton's Silent Shorts: Beyond the Laughter (1996) Southern Illinois University Press
- Horton, Andrew, Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. (1997) Cambridge University Press
- Bengtson, John, Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton (1999) Santa Monica Press
- Knopf, Robert, The Theater and Cinema of Buster Keaton (1999) Princeton University Press
- Keaton, Eleanor and Vance, Jeffrey Buster Keaton Remembered (2001) Harry N. Abrams
- Mitchell, Glenn, A–Z of Silent Film Comedy (2003) B.T. Batsford Ltd.
- McPherson, Edward, Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat (2005) Newmarket Press
- Neibaur, James L., Arbuckle and Keaton: Their 14 Film Collaborations (2006) McFarland & Co.
- Neibaur, James L., The Fall of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures, and Columbia (2010) Scarecrow Press
- Neibaur, James L. and Terri Niemi,Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts (2013) Scarecrow Press
- Oderman, Stuart, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography of the Silent Film Comedian (2005) McFarland & Co.
- Keaton, Buster, Buster Keaton: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series) (2007) University Press of Mississippi
- Brighton, Catherine, Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton (2008) Roaring Brook Press (An illustrated children's book about Keaton's career)
- Smith, Imogen Sara, Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy (2008) Gambit Publishing
- Carroll, Noel, Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Physical Humor, and Bodily Coping (2009) Wiley-Blackwell
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