KEATON by Rudi Blesh


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Keaton admirers will have little to fault in this full-scale biography of their idol (except perhaps that it wasn't written by James Agee). Blesh makes some important definitions about Buster's art as a silent movie comedian; he's thorough on both the film-history level and as his biographer. While not an intellectual, Blesh does not hesitate to define the philosophical meaning of Keaton's pictures or to call Keaton a genius and make it stick. Perhaps the most important point he makes is that where Chaplin touches your sentiments, Keaton made you think. When you view a group of Keaton's best films, they seem primed with fate and existential finality. Or is it that we see them through the lenses of the present? Keaton began to act at three for his vaudevillian parents. He was a knockabout, stone-faced child with a valise handle sewn into the back of his coat. His father would grip the handle and toss Buster into the front row-- and Buster bounced right back. His movie career reached its heights in the twenties and was surpassed only by Chaplin's. He fell into a commercial limbo at MGM, lost his wife, fought alcoholism, and attempted several partial comebacks. Perhaps his recent death will accelerate interest.

Publisher: Macmillan