Classic Movie Hub (CMH)

Job Actor, director, producer, writer
Years active 1898-1966
Top Roles Johnny Gray, Jimmy the Crook, Bertie Van Alstyne, Hickey, Calvero's Partner
Top GenresComedy, Short Films, Silent Films, Romance, Drama, Musical
Top TopicsSlapstick, Book-Based, Remake
Top Collaborators , (Producer), (Director), (Director)
Shares birthday with Charlton Heston, Kathryn Card, George Sidney  see more..

Enter to Win Noirs from Kino Lorber!

This month we celebrate Noirvember with a 12 DVD/Blu-Ray film noir giveaway from Kino Lorber! Each winner will have a choice of four titles, including Daisy Canyon and The Man Who Died Twice...   

Click here to enter to win...

Buster Keaton Overview:

Legendary actor, Buster Keaton, was born Joseph Frank Keaton VI on Oct 4, 1895 in Piqua, KS. Keaton died at the age of 70 on Feb 1, 1966 in Los Angeles, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton on October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas.  He grew up in a show business family, as both his parents were popular vaudevillian performers. Legend has it the young Keaton gained his famous nickname from infamous dare devil Harry Houdini. Busters'™ father was a business partner of Houdini and while visiting the Keaston household he notices the youngster taking a stumble down flight of stairs; landing safe and uninjured. He apparently remarked, "That's some buster your kid took." A "buster "was a slang term used back then to indicate a serious or painful fall. The name stuck and was associated with the boy ever since.


By the age of three, Buster was already performing with his parents. He debuted in Wilmington, Delaware in sketch featuring the tolder as an unruly child whose father punishes him by tossing into the crowds or throwing him about the stage. Although the scene may have looked like borderline child abuse, Buster was already remarkably gifted at pratfalls and physical comedy. Despite the level of danger associated with such acts, he was rarely injured on stage.  The family's act was so convincingly brutal that many thought Buster to be the victim of child abuse. While in New York, authorities were so outraged they damaged Buster goes through a full physical examination for broken bones and bruises. They found none and the mayor of New York gave him permission to work. Keaton continued to work with his family on the vaudeville circuit through out his childhood and teen years. Keaton's father had also been a known drinker and by 1917 his alcohol abuse had was now threatening the family's show-business reputation. Soon after, the age of 21, Keaton and his mother moved to New York.

Early Film Career

Already known with the show business due to his vaudeville acts, Keaton quickly found work on Broadway. He appeared in the show The Passing Show of 1917. He was soon drafted into World War One, where he spent time France in the 40th Infantry Division but never saw combat. He did, however, suffer from permanently impaired hearing sue to a ear infection. Upon returning home Keaton met the infamous comedian filmmaker/actor, Roscoe "fatty" Arbuckle, working together on the short two-reeler The Butcher Boy. The film demonstrated Keaton's extreme slapstick abilities and he was put under contract to Arbuckle. During this time, Keaton acted as somewhat of an apprentice to Arbuckle and was given complete access to the filmmaking process. Between 1917 and 1920, Keaton starred in over a dozen short films produced by Arbuckle, including Out West, The Bell Boy, Moonshine and One Week. In 1920 he starred in his first feature The Saphead. That same year he was given his own production unit under producer Joseph M. Schenck aptly named Buster Keaton Comedies.


In the early 1920's Keaton better his craft on a series of short two-reelers. Between 1920 and 1923, Keaton directed and starred in over 15 short films including The Haunted House, The Boat, The Electric House, and The Love Nest. In these films, he continued to refine his deadpan approach to performance, often contrasting his manic surrounded and life-threatening gags. Keaton directed his first feature length comedy Three Ages, starring opposite Wallace Beery. In 1924 he directed and starred in The Navigator, where Keaton played one of two people accidentally boarded on an empty ship. That year he also starred and directed Sherlock Jr. The films were phenomenally successful, with the movie going public and critics alike falling love with the stone-faced star.  By this time, Keaton's popularity rivaled that of fellow silent comedy star, Charlie Chaplin. His next two films, 1925'sSeven Chances and Go West, out-grossed his last two.

In 1926 Keaton made his personal favorite film The General. In the film, Keaton plays a train engineer who must save a captured Union Army General as his train heads straight into Confederate territory. Rather than use sets, rear-projection and models for the films dangerous stunts, Keaton insisted on doing his stunt-work and spent an unprecedented 42,000 dollars on crashing a real train through a burning bridge. Although the film was a commercial failure at the time, it has since become Keaton's most beloved and is considered to be one of the greatest of the silent era. It was also the final film Buster could exact full creative control. The next year he released College, perhaps his least successful film of the era and certainly the most forgettable.  In 1928 bounced back Steamboat Bill Jr. In the film Keaton performed what has since become his most famous gag. The stunt required him to stand in the 2-foot by 2-foot spot while a two-ton house facade fell around him. Had Keaton been mere inches off mark, he would have been crushed. The scene has since become one of the most memorable and parodies images in film history. Much like The General, Steamboat Bill Jr. was a commercial failure that only achieved success at later time.

Sound Era and Decline

After the box-office failures of his last three films, Keaton's production company was under financial stress. With little money and family pressure, Keaton left his production company in favor of signing MGM. The decision is now considered the worst of his life. Although he earned 3,000 dollars a week under the new contract, he lost nearly all creative control. Soon MGM began to enforce their factory-like method of filmmaking on Keaton. They forced long plotted narrative, gag-ridden scripts upon him, thus losing the spontaneity of his previously heavily improvisational films. The studio also insisted Keaton use a stuntman for his more dangerous gags, as the studio wanted to protect their precious new asset. His first film for studio, The Cameraman, was a critical and commercial success as was his second, 1929's Spite Marriage. The latter film would also marked the actors last silent film, with 1929'sThe Hollywood Revue of 1929 marking his transition to talking films. Although his films of the early 1930's such as Estrellados and Doughboys were his most financially successful of his career, the loss of artistic control over proved too much for Keaton. He began drinking heavily, often disregarding his scheduled shooting dates and responsibilities on the MGM lot. Soon after, he released a series of mediocre films, such as The Passionate Plumber, Buster se marie, and Parlor, Bedroom and Bath, all of which were box-office failures. By the end of 1932, Keaton's alcoholism caused him to nose not only his wife, but also his contract at MGM. 

Career Decline

After being dropped by MGM, Keaton accepted an offer to star in the French comedy Le Roi des Champs-yses. After returning to Hollywood, he signed to Educational Pictures to star in 16 two-reels comedy shorts. After he completed his obligations at Educational, his life a low point. He continued to drink and was in 1935 was temporally admitted to a mental asylum. Although soon released, he still continued to drink heavily. By the late 1930's Out West. In 1939 he signed onto Colombia pictures to star in 10 two-reel shorts over the span of two years. After the experience, Keaton vowed to never make a short film again. After Colombia, he appeared in a few pictures in the 1940's and began to clean-up his personal life, starting with his second marriage.  In 1943 he was a supporting player in the film Forever and a Day and by 1946, he starred in is last feature film Boom in the Moon. Shot a an extremely low budget in Mexico, the film was not seen in the United States until it's VHS release in the 1980's.

Later Career and Life

By the end of the forties Keaton's career was largely forgotten, when LIFE magazine featured an article in tribute to silent film stars. The essay revived interest in Keaton, as well as Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. In 1950 he made a somewhat self-deprecating cameo in Billy Wilder biting Hollywood satire Sunset BLVD. He then made a memorable appearance in Charlie Chaplin's 1952 film Limelight. In the film, the two play vaudevillian stars past their primes, who work on one final act together. It marked the only the two silent film giants shared the screen together.

He made frequent appearances on the new medium of television throughout the 1950's, including his own series, The Buster Keaton Show. In 1958 he made a memorable guest star appearance The Donna Reed Show. Two years later he made this last MGM film appearance in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In 1961, he made an appearance in The Twilight Zone, then followed that up with a small role in 1963 ensemble comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World.  He mid-sixties he appeared in series of teen-surfer movies in Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. He made his final film appearance in the 1966 comedy A Funny Happened on the Way of Forum. That same year he was diagnosed with cancer. Buster Keaton died on February 1st, 1966 of lung cancer in Woodland Hills, California. He was 70 years old.  

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Television and Motion Pictures. In addition, Keaton was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1994. Keaton was never nominated for an Academy Award. However he won one Honorary Award in 1959 for his unique talents which brought immortal comedies to the screen .

BlogHub Articles:

e suas casas modernas / and his modern houses

By Lê on May 6, 2017 From Critica Retro

e suas casas modernas / and his modern houses Em sua corajosa autobiografia, “My Wonderful World of Slapstick”, confessa que, se não fosse ator, ele gostaria de ser engenheiro civil. Ele mostrou criatividade em várias ocasiões em seus film... Read full article

Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway (Facebook/Blog March)

By Annmarie Gatti on Mar 14, 2017 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

The Celebration Continues! Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway And, now for the Facebook/Blog version of our giveaway, courtesy of Kino Lorber!  We’ll be giving away 1 Blu-Ray/DVD via this version of our contest… winners’ choice of either The General (and Three Ages) OR St... Read full article

Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway (via Twitter March 6-April 1)

By Annmarie Gatti on Mar 7, 2017 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

Celebration! Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway And, now for a back-to-back Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway! If the contest I announced just minutes ago wasn’t enough, we’ll also be giving away 4 Blu-Rays/DVDs via twitter this month… winners’ choice of two comedy classics!... Read full article

My First Time with : One Week

By Virginie Pronovost on Feb 22, 2017 From The Wonderful World of Cinema

Writing about ’s films has always been a pleasant experience for me. When Lea from Silent-Ology announced that she’ll be hosting the Blogathon for a third consecutive year, I couldn’t skip this most amazing event. This year is a special one, as 2017 marks... Read full article

Book review: My Wonderful World of Slapstick, by

By Lê on Feb 20, 2017 From Critica Retro

Book review: My Wonderful World of Slapstick, by Em 1957, um filme chamado “O Palhaço que não Ri” chegou aos cinemas. Era um filminho estranho. Donald O’Connor fazia o papel de Keaton e a produção usa muita licença poética – ou seria cinematográfica? &#... Read full article

See all articles

Buster Keaton Quotes:

Bertie: I'm good. I've tried my best to get over it - but I can't - and I still kneel down and say my prayers every morning - before I go to bed.

Fleegle: What are we looking for?
J. Sinister Hulk: Look for anything suspicious!
Chief Rotten Eagle: The only thing suspicious is us!

The Boy: Her father's abused her long enough. I want to marry her and take her home to MY father!

read more quotes from Buster Keaton...

Share this page:

Sun. 03 Dec. 02:00 PM EST

See Today's TCM Schedule >>
Related Travel Sites

See All Related Sites >>
Also a Libra

See All Libras >>
Honorary Award Oscar 1959

See more Academy Awards>>
Buster Keaton on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Buster Keaton Facts
Died quietly at home, in his sleep, shortly after playing cards with his wife.

His last film work was The Railrodder (1965), but because it was such a short film it was released before other movies, like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), which had completed filming before "The Railrodder".

He was already quite ill with the cancer that would eventually kill him by the time he made his last completed film, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). He used a stunt double in this film, as well as most of the films he made as an MGM contract player. Before signing with MGM in 1928, he had performed all of his own stunts, and even doubled for cast members in his own films, as in Sherlock Jr. (1924), where he played both himself, riding on the handlebars of a motorcycle, and the man who falls off the back of it.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>