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Annotated Bibliography of Buster Keaton

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Ð'* Biographies of Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton, Charles Samuels, My Wonderful World of Slapstick (USA: De Capo Press, 1982). Easily the most personal account of the silent film star, this indispensable book was co-written by Keaton himself. While it's not the most objective source Ð'- Keaton's memory or interpretation of certain events is rather unclear Ð'- it's an enjoyable and well-written memoir; offering some key facts and recollections. He delves quite a bit into his family life, dispelling some rumours and ruminating at length about his early years in the family vaudeville act (wherein he would perform the dangerous and creative stunts that became his trademark). From his later association with fellow silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, through to his breakthrough as a leading man in early Hollywood, the book covers some fertile ground. It is, however, frustratingly brief Ð'- only touching the surface. Keaton glosses over the troubles he faced (such as his broken first marriage, or his clinical depression), making the book incomplete. My Wonderful World of Slapstick is most notable for providing an insight into Keaton's creative process Ð'- the formation of a visual gag for instance Ð'- and the writing makes his voice clear. We are given the impression that Keaton was a man without pretension, and his sense of humour remained intact toward the end of his life. While the lack of focus on his key films disappointed many critics, the book represents his only recorded memoir.

Eleanor Keaton, Jeffrey Vance, Buster Keaton Remembered (USA: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2001). Equally personal, due to the involvement of his widow Eleanor, Buster Keaton Remembered traces his career and background in more depth. Detailing his rise from two-reel cheapies to full-length features, the book is largely concerned with Buster the man, rather than Buster the star. Keaton and Vance cover the basics, such as his eventual acceptance by audiences who loved his films for their pioneering stunt work, and his times of hardship. Naturally, due to Eleanor's input, the information is rarely technical; relying on anecdotal material. Still, such primary research is valuable Ð'- giving us the impression that Keaton was a shy, humble man that faced the typical challenges of the period, while pushing the boundaries of screen acrobatics. Unsurprisingly, the book sums up the late star as an influential icon of American cinema.

Tom Dardis, Buster Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down (USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). Another notable biography, Dardis documents the rise and eventual fall of Keaton; providing many of the key details familiar to other texts on the star. What makes this book worthwhile however, is the author's acknowledgment of the actor's troubled history. His later years living in virtual obscurity and his descent into alcoholism, are both covered; having found it hard to maintain a hold in the industry. A valid insight into the studio system also gives the book some worth (dipping into his time as an MGM contract player), and much is said about the introduction of sound, that forged a chasm for Keaton to leap. Adding further context to Dardis' work is a plethora of quotes from fellow stars and friends who knew him. Ultimately, the book paints a portrait of a man who strived to improve as a performer, but faced opposition from Hollywood bosses and his personal demons.

Edward McPherson, Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat (London: Faber and Faber, 2005). A relatively short account of Keaton's life that suffers in the wake of previous texts yet redeems itself through a variety of critical insights. McPherson's work is concise and ideal for study Ð'- keeping to the basics and providing sufficient depth. His approach to covering Keaton's most famous pictures is commendable, revealing both a fan's enthusiasm and critic's eye for quality.

Ð'* Books on specific Keaton films

Gabriella Oldham, Keaton's Silent Shorts: Beyond the Laughter (USA: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996). While his later features often steal the limelight, Keaton had an early career in short films; shooting nineteen between 1920 and 1923. Each is covered here in scholarly detail by Oldham, paying particular attention to the advancements in Keaton's methods. Key sequences are dissected with care; Oldham analysing visual tricks, narrative techniques, and the star's vibrant screen personality Ð'- his charisma and athleticism discussed at great length.

John Bengston, Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton (USA: Independent Publisher's Group, 1999). This is a unique book that offers as much insight into the Hollywood climate at the time of Keaton's movies, as it does about the filmmaker/star himself. Most notably, Bengston offers a look at real-life locations depicted in his films; offering a multitude of authentic photographs, Hollywood maps and up-to-date pictures. The author talks freely about the "tinsel town" infrastructure, while always applying it to his subject; giving the text a sense of purpose. More importantly, it gives deeper meaning to the images captured in the star's work.

Richard J. Anibole (editor), Buster Keaton's The General (USA: Darien House Publishing, 1975). While not strictly a text book, this ageing volume by Anibole is a valuable resource for fans of Keaton's most famous film Ð'- a scene-by-scene snap-shot of The General. Every shot has been captured here and printed in high detail, allowing critics to step through the film on paper. Anibole's stance on Keaton is very much on his technical and physical capabilities (as performer and director); noting his ability to pull off set pieces, and his sense of showmanship. The book is also notable for an entry by Raymond Rohaur, who continues the notion that Keaton was ahead of his time; using his vaudevillian background as a basis for pioneering stunt work.

Richard J. Anibole (ed.), The Best of Buster (London: Elm Tree Books, 1976). An addendum to the previous book, Anobile's next foray into Keaton's oeuvre collects a series of resources for The Goat (1921), Sherlock Jr. (1924), The Navigator (1924), Seven Chances (1925), and Go West (1925). Befitting Keaton's style, this book is also largely visual, with over a thousand images lifted directly from the films themselves. This allows the reader to develop a further

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