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Comedian and director Buster Keaton was popular for his pioneering silent comedies in the 1920s.
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His salary reached $3,500 a week and he eventually built a $300,000 home in Beverly Hills.
In 1928 Buster Keaton made the move that would later call the mistake of his life. With the advent of talkies, Keaton signed on with MGM, where he proceeded to make a string of new sound comedies that fared decently at the box office but lacked the kind of Keaton punch the filmmaker had come to expect from his work.
The reason for that largely stemmed from the fact that in signing in the deal, Keaton had forked over part of the filmmaking control to his bosses. His life quickly spiraled downward. His marriage to actress Natalie Talmadge, with whom he had two sons, fell apart and he became plagued with issues related to alcoholism and depression.
In 1934, with his contract with MGM now terminated, Keaton filed for bankruptcy. His listed assets totaled just $12,000. One year later he divorced his second wife, Mae Scribbens.
In 1940 Keaton's life started to move upward again. He got married for a third time, to a 21-year-old dancer named Eleanor Morris, who many credited with bring him stability. The two would remain together until Keaton's death in 1966.
A return to fame came in the 1950s, a revival that was sparked by British television, where the aging comedian appeared on a string of English programs. In the States, too, American audiences became reacquainted with Keaton after he played himself in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950) and then in Chaplin's Limelight (1952).
He also raised his profile through a string of American programs and commercials. In 1956 he was paid $50,000 by Paramount for the film rights to The Keaton Story, which follows the performer's life from his vaudeville days through his work in Hollywood.
During this time film fans also rediscovered Keaton's work from the silent film era. In 1962, Keaton, who'd retained full rights to his older films, reissued The General and watched with awe as it drew praise from fans and critics from all over Europe.
In October 1965 the Keaton comeback reached its height after he was invited to the Venice Film Festival, where he showed his latest project, Film, a 22-minute silent movie based on a Samuel Becket screenplay. Keaton had made movie the year before in New York. When the film concluded, Keaton received a five-minute standing ovation from the audience.
"This is the first time I've been invited to a film festival," a teary-eyed Keaton proclaimed. "But I hope it won't be the last."
A survivor to the end, the hard working Keaton was, toward the end of his life making more than $100,000 a year just from doing commercials. In all, Keaton, who was honored in 1959 with a special Academy Award, claimed he had more work than he could handle.
Keaton, who suffered from cancer, passed away in his sleep in his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on February 1, 1966.
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