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Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton
     

Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton

by John Bengston, John Bengtson (Foreword by)
 

Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton is an epic look at a genius at work and at a Hollywood that no longer exists. Painstakingly researching the locations used in Buster Keaton’s classic silent films, author John Bengtson combines images from Keaton’s movies with archival photographs, historic maps,

Overview


Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton is an epic look at a genius at work and at a Hollywood that no longer exists. Painstakingly researching the locations used in Buster Keaton’s classic silent films, author John Bengtson combines images from Keaton’s movies with archival photographs, historic maps, and scores of dramatic “then” and “now” photos. In the process, Bengtson reveals dozens of locations that lay undiscovered for nearly 80 years.

Part time machine, part detective story, Silent Echoes presents a fresh look at the matchless Keaton at work, as well as a captivating glimpse of Hollywood’s most romantic era. More than a book for film, comedy, or history buffs, Silent Echoes appeals to anyone fascinated with solving puzzles or witnessing the awesome passage of time.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“What John Bengtson has done is nothing short of remarkable: a deft combination of detective work, archeology, and film buffery. I can't get enough of it!” —Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

“This is a cinematic and photographic detective story of the first order. Time and artifice have been stripped away. What's left is a wonderful portrait of a city, its principal industry, and one of its best artists.” —Ken Burns, author/director, The Civil War, Baseball

“Bengtson captures the same eerie feeling I sometimes get when watching Keaton, who is the greatest of the silent clowns: The sense that Buster occupies not the fantasy world of many silent comedies, but a real world right down to the street from our own.” —Roger Ebert, film critic and historian

Francesca Dingasan
In Silent Echoes, author John Bengtson performs a great deal of detective work to uncover the areas of Los Angeles (carefully scouted by Keaton himself), which served as the famed settings featured in many of the comic's classic films. [P]ainstakingly researched...enabling current generations to relate to these films of a bygone era. Keaton scholars and fans in general will enjoy seeing the portrait of a city so close to their idol's heart.
From Francesca Dingasan, BOXOFFICE, November, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
The book is meticulous. It's ingenious. It's inexhaustibly fascinating. And it is clearly, and in the best way, the work of someone obsessed with his subject.
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.
Roger Ebert
Bengtson captures the same eerie feeling I sometimes get when watching Keaton, who is the greatest of the silent clowns: The sense that Buster occupies not the fantasy world of many silent comedies, but a real world right down to the street from our own.
Kenneth Turan
Astonishing is a mild word for what John Bengtson has accomplished . . .this book is something like a miracle.
—film critic, Los Angeles Times
Mick LaSalle
The book is meticulous. It�s ingenious. It�s inexhaustibly fascinating . . . the feeling evoked is not one of nostalgia-of seeking the past in the present-but the opposite, of finding the present in the past. It�s disconcerting, vaguely romantic and hard to define. But it has a way of keeping Silent Echoes by the bedside for a long time.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Charles Champlin
A remarkable piece of detective work.
—author of Hollywood�s Revolutionary Decade
The Keaton Chronicle
Silent Echoes is a conversation piece indeed. I�m grabbing people and showing them this one . . . you must buy this landmark book.
Tom Nolan
A fascinating work of film history in which, to quote film historian Kevin Brownlow, �he may have invented a new art form� . . . Bengtson�s enthusiasm for his subject is contagious . . . Like collaborations between Eadweard Muybridge and David Hockney . . . His inventive and intriguing work is a kind of deconstructed poem, a visual ode to a world that�s vanished yet present.
—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Jonathan Kirsch
A fine madness and a measure of genius are at work in the pages of Silent Echoes. Out of raw materials extracted from silent movies and photographic archives, Bengtson conjures up a vision of Southern California in its most charming and colorful era. The result is a strange but utterly winning book that can be used and enjoyed as a filmography of Buster Keaton, a work of architectural history, urban geography and popular culture . . . Bengtson�s approach is simple in concept but brilliant in execution . . . Even for the reader who cares not at all about Buster Keaton, Silent Echoes still exerts a strong and sometimes almost hypnotic allure of its own . . . reading Bengtson�s book is like recalling a dimly remembered dream, sometimes delightful and sometimes disturbing, but always rich in meaning.
—Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781891661068
Publisher:
Santa Monica Press
Publication date:
12/28/1999
Pages:
232
Sales rank:
855,282
Product dimensions:
10.98(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.47(d)

What People are Saying About This

Kenneth Turan
Astonishing!
— (Kenneth Turan, film critic, Los Angeles Times)
Leonard Maltin
What John Bengtson has done is nothing short of remarkable: a deft combination of detective work, archeology, and film buffery. I can't get enough of it!
— (Leonard Maltin, film critic)
Ken Burns
This is a cinematic and photographic detective story of the first order. Time and artifice has been stripped away. What's left is a wonderful portrait of a city, its principal industry and one of its best artists.
— (Ken Burns, author/director, The Civil War, etc.)
Ace Magazine
With its blend of film history, Hollywood and Keaton, and research, the book is like no other; may there be more like it.--Ace Magazine
American Cinematographer
John Bengtson is a relentless detective, a photo historian of the first order. His passionate love for the films of Buster Keaton has compelled him to create the most complete work on film locations that has ever been published. Any student of early filmmaking in Los Angeles--not to mention Keaton fans--will find this elegant volume to be indespensable. (American Cinematographer Magazine)
Kevin Brownlow
A new art form.
— (Kevin Brownlow, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and historian)

Meet the Author


John Bengtson is a business lawyer and film historian who discovered the magic of silent comedy at an early age. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin, Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton, and Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. Bengtson has presented his work on Buster Keaton as keynote speaker at events hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. He is a featured columnist of the Keaton Chronicle newsletter, and lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his two daughters.

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