During the silent era there were three great “clowns” of silent comedy: Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. Chaplin was the Tramp, a little guy down on his luck; Lloyd was the every-man, a stand in for ourselves; but Buster was something else, somewhere between the two. Life happened to Chaplin and Lloyd, but Buster happened to life — if that makes any sense.
Famous for his pratfalls and stunts, Keaton almost killed himself multiple times throughout his career. During the making of the film “The General” (1926) in which Keaton is a train conductor during the civil war, Keaton fell from the train while it was moving, and it wasn’t until years later he found out that he actually mildly fractured his neck during the accident. When making “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” (1928), Keaton was getting so much grief from the studio that he decided to perform a stunt which likely could have killed him; Keaton, while standing in front of a house, let the from frame of the house fall down on top of him, with him passing through the window opening and remaining perfectly unharmed. On a routine basis Buster Keaton performed stunts that would make the Looney Toons think twice; but most importantly he makes us laugh, and he makes us laugh a lot.
But on to the point: Buster Keaton was born 117 years ago today. If you’ve never heard of him before, then let me introduce you the best way that I know how: by letting his work speak for itself.
“One Week” features Keaton in the role of a new husband trying to build a house for his wife. It is 22 of the best minutes you can find anywhere. Flawless physical comedy, stunning sight gags, and fantastic stunts left and right.
Out of all the short films Buster Keaton made this is my favorite. Check it out on the YouTube from OpenFlix or on the Internet Archive.
It’s been 95 years since Buster made his film debut in “The Butcher Boy” (1917). I hope you enjoy his work; I do.