“He was, as we’re just beginning to realize, the greatest of all of the clowns in the history of the cinema… A lovely person, a supreme artist, and I think one of the most beautiful people that was ever photographed.”
— Orson Welles on Buster Keaton
From our previous series “Deadpan Features: Restored”:
Integrated into his family’s vaudeville act at age three, little Joseph Keaton was deployed as “The Human Mop,” wielded by his father Joe on, around, and over the stage. The lad took to the gig with aplomb but noted that his own yukking it up mid-flight didn’t draw as many laughs as when he was less responsive. So he would freeze up his features and this demeanor would serve him well—as would his nickname-turned-stage name Buster—through a brilliant career. “The Great Stone Face” has been an incalculable influence on the art of comedy ever since he first strolled onscreen in 1917. A genius at conceiving and executing gags ranging from trompe l’œil surrealism to eruptive chaos, he assimilated the mechanics of moviemaking and jump-started them. Prolific even by the fast-paced standards of the silents era, he would act, write, direct, produce, and edit, having survived filming the risky stunts that he had brainstormed for himself.
Running January 21-27, “The Great Stone Face: 1920s Buster Keaton” is an extensive, week-long survey of Buster Keaton’s pre-MGM films dating from comedy shorts One Week (1920) and The Scarecrow (1920) through to Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), which features Keaton’s now-iconic wall-falling stunt, as well as Peter Bogdanovich’s critically lauded tribute documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018). Throughout the series, we’ll be showing new digital restorations of Buster Keaton shorts and features twice daily. Come in from the cold and warm up with one of the greatest funny men in history.
Restorations by Cohen Media Group in collaboration with the Cineteca Bologna