The silent screen's "Great Stone Face" of comedy, Buster Keaton (1895-1966), was born Frank Joseph Keaton, Jr. on this day in Piqua, Kansas. He became an entertainer immediately, joining his parents' tour with Harry Houdini's traveling vaudeville show.
"No man can be a genius in slapshoes and a flat hat," he once said.
Keaton chose a career in film over Broadway stardom. An innovative performer, he appeared in several film shorts with comedian Rosco "Fatty" Arbuckle, then served a year in the army during World War I.
He said, "Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot."
Returning to films, Keaton gained fame as the star of The Saphead (1920). Within a year, he owned his own production company and was able to write, direct, and star in films.
Famous for such masterpieces as The Navigator (1924) and The General (1927), he was a master at timing and physical comedy. He did his own stunts. He kept tight reign on his emotions and his dead-pan stare moved audiences to laughter. His trademark porkpie hat was created by cutting a felt fedora.
"I just want that one day, when I retire, that people will still remember me like they remember Buster," actor Jackie Chan said in tribute.
Keaton said of his life, "Because of the way I looked on the stage and screen, the public naturally assumed I felt hopeless and unloved in my personal life. Nothing could be farther from the fact. As long back as I can remember, I have considered myself a fabulously lucky man."
More Film-Making Quotations
Agree to disagree, but remain friends.