The Theater and Cinema of Buster Keaton

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Overview

Famous for their stunts, gags, and images, Buster Keaton's silent films have enticed everyone from Hollywood movie fans to the surrealists, such as Dali and Bunuel. Here Robert Knopf offers an unprecedented look at the wide-ranging appeal of Keaton's genius, considering his vaudeville roots and his ability to integrate this aesthetic into the techniques of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1920s. By isolating elements of vaudeville within works that have previously been considered "classical," Knopf reevaluates Keaton's films and how they function.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice
With apt photographs, complete filmography, and heuristic bibliography, Knopf reanimates the delightfully improvised cinema of a truly great comic film artist.
The Boston Book Review
The remarkable thing about Buster Keaton is that within the world of film he could do anything. [The book] is a concise synthesis of critical opinions on Keaton which is most useful and insightful in its attention to the tension between vaudeville-based gags and classical narrative structure in Keaton's films.
— Marc A. Mamigonian
The Boston Book Review - Marc A. Mamigonian
The remarkable thing about Buster Keaton is that within the world of film he could do anything. [The book] is a concise synthesis of critical opinions on Keaton which is most useful and insightful in its attention to the tension between vaudeville-based gags and classical narrative structure in Keaton's films.
From the Publisher
"Knopf offers a timely, academic appreciation of the great stoneface, examining why Keaton's films intrigued surrealists and intellectuals. . . . Knopf also does an excellent job of tracing the vaudevillian roots of Keaton's stunts and gags."—Library Journal

"The remarkable thing about Buster Keaton is that within the world of film he could do anything. [The book] is a concise synthesis of critical opinions on Keaton which is most useful and insightful in its attention to the tension between vaudeville-based gags and classical narrative structure in Keaton's films."—Marc A. Mamigonian, The Boston Book Review

"With apt photographs, complete filmography, and heuristic bibliography, Knopf reanimates the delightfully improvised cinema of a truly great comic film artist."—Choice

Library Journal
Buster Keaton ranks as one of the foremost clown princes of Hollywood. As a child, Keaton learned his craft as one of vaudeville's Three Keatons, where he was the target of knockabout comedy so rough many observers considered it a form of child abuse. Sadly, personal problems, alcoholism, and a lack of business acumen caused Buster to lose artistic control over the making of his films in later years, and he was reduced to taking bit roles in "Beach Party" films. Knopf (theater, Univ. of Michigan) offers a timely, academic appreciation of the great stoneface, examining why Keaton's films intrigued surrealists and intellectuals such as Salvador Dal , Federico Garc a Lorca, and Luis Bu uel. (One of Keaton's final appearances was in a short film scripted by Samuel Beckett.) Knopf also does an excellent job of tracing the vaudevillian roots of Keaton's stunts and gags. On the other hand, Bengtson's Silent Echoes shows more than 100 sites from early Keaton films, comparing the film view with the scene as it exists today. (Unlike other silent film figures, Keaton preferred natural settings for his pratfalls. As a result, his early films offer a wonderful view of early Hollywood landmarks that are, like some of Keaton's films, now lost to posterity.) This dedicated bit of detective work will be of great interest to Hollywood and urban historians. Although the definitive history of Keaton's life and career has yet to be written, both books will nicely supplement the collections of libraries that already own earlier studies, like Keaton's Wonderful World of Slapstick, Marion Meade's Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase or Tom Dardis's Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down--not to mention Kino on Video's ten-volume The Art of Buster Keaton. Recommended for all academic and large public libraries and specialized film collections.--Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691004426
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/2/1999
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments Xi
Introduction 3
The Lens of Classical Hollywood Cinema 4
The Lens of Vaudeville 10
The Lens of Surrealism 15
1. The Evolution of Keaton's Vaudeville 19
2. From Stage to Film: The Transformation of Keaton's Vaudeville 36
3. Keaton Re-Viewed: Beyond Keaton's Classicism 76
Keaton in Context: Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd 79
The Gag-Narrative Relationship in Keaton's Films 83
4. From Vaudeville to Surrealism 112
The Surrealists Claim Keaton 113
Keaton's Affinities with Surrealism 121
5. Beyond Surrealism: Keaton's Legacy 134
Gerald Potterton's The Railrodder 135
Samuel Beckett's Film 143
Afterlife: New Vaudeville, Jackie Chan, and Coming Attractions 148
Motes 157
Filmography 179
Bibliography 203
Index 213

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