Friday, January 15, 2010

Buster Keaton Quizzes

And now for something completely different!

I've been doing quizzes on the magnificent (and, in the case of the Columbia shorts, sometimes not so magnificent) films of Buster Keaton.

Give 'em a go if you've seen the movies:

  • The Bell Boy
  • The Butcher Boy
  • The Cameraman
  • Coney Island
  • The Cook
  • The General
  • The Hayseed
  • His Wedding Night
  • The Love Nest
  • Mooching Through Georgia
  • Moonshine
  • My Wife's Relations
  • Neighbors
  • Oh, Doctor!
  • Our Hospitality
  • Out West
  • The Railrodder
  • The Rough House
  • She's Oil Mine
  • Sherlock Jr.
  • Steamboat Bill Jr.
  • The Taming of the Snood

    And, on related notes:
  • A Roscoe Arbuckle film, A Reckless Romeo
  • An Al St. John film, Bridge Wives
  • A Harold Lloyd film, Number, Please?

    OperationCounterstrike said...

    Buster Keaton is great. When I was a kid he was my favorite. Since I've grown older, I now prefer WC Fields. He's sooooo creepy.

    Did you see the TWILIGHT ZONE episode with Buster Keaton playing a time-traveller?

    Did you know that Buster Keaton broke his spine doing a stunt, and remained unaware of his injury for many years until a doctor noticed it on an x-ray? Whatta guy.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    I saw the Twilight Zone episode. I prefer the episode of Douglas Fairbanks Presents. It's called "The Awakening". I'm gonna have to buy the DVD. It's a straight dramatic role, and he does it beautifully.

    Keaton broke his neck doing the stunt in "Sherlock Jr.' where he falls off the water tower. Definitely a Type T personality.

    I watched two WC Fields films -- My Little Chickadee, and International House. They did nothing for me. Oh, well.

    OperationCounterstrike said...

    Wow. You say MY LITTLE CHICKADEE did nothing for you??? That scene where he thinks he's making love to Mae West and it's really a goat??? Margaret Hamilton, sort of pre-prising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West? ("Masked bandit! Awk! Masked bandit!") The moment where they're about to hang WCF and they ask "any last requests" and he says "I'd like to see Paris before I die!" and the hangman turns away and WC shouts "Philadelphia will do!!"? If this did nothing for you maybe you should see a psychiatrist.

    And WCF was at least as great a stunt-artist as Buster Keaton. WCF was the best juggler of his generation and an unchallenged master of all kinds of hat tricks, cane tricks, pool-cue tricks, cigar-tricks, all kinds of slight-of-hand.

    Check out his surreal-fairy-tale-and-hollywood-spoof NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK. Featuring Margaret Dumont (the dignified woman who performed with the Marx Brothers all the time).

    WCF was also literary. He was a PG-Wodehouse junkie (like me) and he once wrote a screenplay under the name "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" which means "my hat, my cane, Jeeves", referring to Jeeves the personal valet/butler, Wodehouse's most famous character (his actual job-title is "gentleman's personal gentleman"). WCF also played Mr. Macawber in the movie of DAVID COPPERFIELD. This makes him more lowbrow AND more highbrow than Buster Keaton!

    And on top of everything else, WCF had a mesmerizing athletic booming snarling high-baritone/heldentenor voice. He could have read you the news from across Broadway during rush hour. Every one of his movies (except the early silent ones of course) is a lesson in good, relaxed voice-production for singing or public speaking.

    WCF is most definitely adults-only with his alcoholism and his vulgar sadism but he's also an athletic-and-performing genius.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    I think it's just a matter of taste. There were a lot of clever bits, a lot of clever lines, but I don't find his character likable and if I don't find characters likable then the whole film (or book or whatever) falls flat. I can recognize that John Updike wrote very well -- his characters were memorable and vivid -- but I found his characters so utterly unlikable that I'd not read Updike unless forced to do so for a college class or something. He does nothing for me. WC Fields' characters are like Updike characters to me. I can recognize the wit; I just don't care for it. I think it's like the way my dad hated Pink Floyd, but could recognize that though he didn't like the style of music, they were very good at it.

    I think that's why the first Chaplin film I ever liked was "City Lights" -- because that character was the first Chaplin character that engaged me. "City Lights" gripped me. It could be that I simply need the character development of a Chaplin feature to know the character enough to like him.

    That could also be why of all Buster Keaton films, I hate "The Frozen North". Buster's playing a caricature more than a character, and the part he plays is just not likable. Whereas, say, "The Love Nest," when he seals the envelope with his lonely tears, that's so sad and funny that the character is immediately engaging to me.