buster: salvaged by tried and true nobodies…

buster keaton…

by Art Chantry ( art@artchantry.com)

i just wanted to share this 8×10 b&w glossy photo of buster keaton wearing one of ed ‘big daddy’ roth’s “surfink” tshirts. amazing, huh? seems like everybody was wearing those things back then, eh?

actually, buster was filming guest spots in a “beach” movie with frankie and annette. i believe this was a publicity shot to promote the movie. i’ll bet he didn’t rat fink from mickey mouse.

AC:james mason, eh? man, i like that story better. never heard it before, but try to imagine james mason moving into the famous keaton mansion and finding his old films abandoned. i think keaton lost his home back in the 30's, so i imagine he left them there ages before they were found, according to that story. who knows, eh?

at this point in his career he had been virtually forgotten and erased from history and then suddenly re-discovered by film historians as the genius he was. this small cameo-esque film appearance in ‘beach blanket bingo’ (i believe that was the title) was his first major film appearance since the silent era.

---Keaton’s manic ballet-like choreography did not merely limit itself to the performers, but to objects and industry as well. It wasn’t enough that he and the camera were dancing about; because in “The General” (1926) Keaton choreographed several actual locomotives along real train tracks. He makes the trains almost dance from track to track and around each bend. The results are nothing short of amazing and never less than hilarious.---Read More:http://alternativechronicle.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/the-greatest-poker-face-in-film/

the way that his films were salvaged from the trash bin was through a bit of serendipity. a film historian decided to find out if keaton was still alive. he found him living in a tidy but modest suburban house quietly and anonymously. in fact, he was thrilled that anybody at all remembered him. when the writer asked some questions, keaton lead him out to his garage where he had a stack of rusting film cans. it was his a set of his movies that he saved for no other reason that he did them – simple pride. and that is where all the master prints of his filmography survived. he almost tossed them in the garbage.

---Buster Keaton's last film appearance. 1966....Richard Lester’s zany musical comedy infused the story with sexual innuendo, rapid fire répartie and the humor of Catskills comedians. Writing for Turner Classic Movies, Jessica Handler observes that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is “set in ‘a less fashionable suburb of Rome’ and swirling with swinging-’60s treatments of soothsayers, public baths, and ancient Roman go-go girls.”---Read More:http://www.filminfocus.com/slideshow/rome__the_eternal_story__from_ben_hur_to_the_eagle

AC:keaton was re-discovered as a master in the late 50′s/early 60′s. for decades prior to that he was forgotten. yes, hard to believe, now.

…From IMdB Bio:
“In 1952 James Mason, who then owned Keaton’s Hollywood mansion, found a secret store of presumably lost nitrate stock of many of Buster’s early films; film historian and archivist Raymond Rohauer began a serious collection/preservation of Buster’s work.

957 Buster appeared with Charles Chaplin in Limelight (1952) and his film biography, The Buster Keaton Story (1957) was released. Two years later he received a special Oscar for his life work in comedy, and he began to receive the accolades he so richly deserved, with festivals around the world honoring his work. He died at 70 years of age.”

---Keaton starred in a wonderful, short SILENT film, ( His last ) called The Railrodder (1965) for the National Film Board of Canada. Wearing his traditional porkpie hat, he travelled from one end of Canada to the other on a motorised "hand-car", performing gags similar to those in films he made 50 years before. The Railrodder was made in tandem with a documentary about Keaton's life, cinema style and the creation of The Railrodder called Buster Keaton Rides Again - also made for the National Film Board. He played the central role in Samuel Beckett's Film (1965), directed by Alan Schneider. Read more: http://www.clown-ministry.com/index_1.php/articles/biography_of_buster_keaton_the_great_stone_face/

And later, “In 1952 while remodeling his home, James Mason discovered several reels of Keaton’s “lost” films (Mason had purchased Keaton’s Hollywood mansion) and immediately recognized their historical significance. He took upon himself the responsibility for their preservation.”…

Art Chantry:my memory of where i got my version of the story is from a book and a couple of magazine articles (basically a couple of sources, as i recall) from when i was young, maybe around 1970-75. however, your version sounds more plausible. or maybe less plausible because it contains famous people. dunno.

usually things like this happen because of tried and true nobodies who make an effort to save things. the idea that another famous movie star chanced across them and saved them seems further out than my story if you think about it.

i dunno. information out there is so lousy on the net. garbage in/garbage out is a real problem. so, if either of us want to make a larger effort,i suppose something a little closer to the truth could be found. but, who knows, eh? interesting stuff.

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