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Comedian and director Buster Keaton was popular for his pioneering silent comedies in the 1920s.
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Film comedian and director Buster Keaton was born on October 4, 1895, in Piqua, Kansas. Born to vaudeville performers, he began performing at age 3. He was introduced to film when he was 21 and eventually directed and starred in films in the 1920s. The talkies eventually pushed him out of demand, but he made a comeback in the 1940s and '50s, when he starred as himself in films like Sunset Boulevard.
Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.
Actor, director. Considered one of the groundbreaking comedians of the early film era, Joseph Frank Keaton IV was born October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas. His parents, Joe and Myra, were both veteran vaudevillian actors and Keaton himself first began performing at the age of three when he was incorporated into their act.
As legend has it, he earned the name of "Buster" at the age of six months, after falling down a flight of stairs. Magician Harry Houdini scooped up the child and turning to the boy's parents quipped, "What a buster."
Keaton quickly grew used to being knocked around a bit. Working with his parents in an act that prided itself on being as rough as it was funny, Keaton was tossed around by his father frequently. During these performances Keaton would learn to display the deadpan look that would later become a hallmark of his comedy career.
"It was the roughest knockout act that was ever in the history of the theater," he later said of the performances he did with his parents.
Even in Keaton's first film, a 1917 two-reeler called "The Butcher Boy" starring Roscoe ("Fatty") Arbuckle, Keaton was extreme slapstick, with the young actor getting subjected to range of abuses, from being submerged in molasses to getting bit by a dog.
Still, film called to Keaton and for the next two years he continued to work closely with Arbuckle for $40 a week. It was an apprenticeship of sorts and through it, Keaton was given full access to the movie making process.
In 1920 Keaton struck out on his own as a filmmaker, first with a series of two-reelers that included now classics such as The Cameraman, Steamboat Bill, Jr., and The Passionate Plumber. In 1923 Keaton started making full features such as The Three Ages (1923) and Sherlock, Jr. (1924). The line up also included perhaps his finest creation, The General (1927), which starred Keaton as a train engineer in the Civil War. Keaton was the full force behind the film, writing and directing it. But while movie proved initially to be a commercial disappointment it was later hailed as a pioneering piece of filmmaking.
Woven into his films of course, was Keaton's trademark comedy, brilliant timing and patented facial expressions. In his early two-reelers the laughing making included a mastery of the slapstick pie.
His work also included Keaton's penchant for doing his own stunts. He became somewhat of a Hollywood legend not just for his falls but his lack of injuries.
At the height of his career, which was in the mid 1920s, Keaton experienced some of the same kind of celebrity as another silent film star, Charlie Chaplin.
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