Buster Keaton... First Thoughts
I pride myself on having a wide interest in comedy, with a resulting wide knowledge. But one area where I still have much to experience and learn about is early silent film comedy.
There are the three acknowledged geniuses of the genre... Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. Currently, my DVD and video collection is without any of the celebrated works of Chaplin or Lloyd, but I do have a package of nine Keaton movies (three features and six shorts) that cost me £3.44 from DVDPACIFIC.COM - a website by the way which I would recommend when buying Region 1 DVDs from the US, for good service and great value.
I have already seen the Kevin Brownlow documentary 'A Hard Act to Follow' and 'Steamboat Bill Jnr' which are in my girlfriend's video collection. This morning I was having a cup of tea in bed at 5.30am, and decided that the short time before returning to sleep could be quietly spent getting better acquainted with with Buster. I started with the earliest short in my DVD package - 'The Boat' (1921).
I enjoyed it. I can't say that I actually laughed, but visual comedy is less likely to have that effect on me than great dialogue. Many of the physical and visual gags in the movie looked familiar - mainly from the dialogue-free work of Eric Sykes ('The Plank' etc.) and especially Michael Crawford in 'Some Mothers Do Ave Em'. Now I know where it was all stolen from.
Like all great comedy characters and performers, Buster Keaton has his very own look, mannerisms, and movements. In the midst of an eventful, dangerous world, he maintains his reactionless face. There is his trademark delayed reaction, before extreme bursts of energy. His character is forever inventive, and snaps into action, with an innocent confidence that anything he attempts will succeed.
Now I'm looking forward to my next early morning cup of tea, when I want something peaceful to watch for twenty minutes. I can further enrich my experience of the visual comedy of Buster Keaton, before returning to sleep and my dreams of becoming the new Bill Hicks.