Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Happy Birthday Buster!

October 4th, 1895- February 1st, 1966

Today would be his 111th birthday! I am celebrating this moment with a blogpost in his honor rather than doing what I wished I could have done. I wanted to visit some of the Los Angeles spots where he filmed: Chinatown, the old downtown, the new downtown, in Hollywood, Pasadena, USC, Newport Beach etc. What I wanted to do most was visit his grave, here in LA at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Plot: George Washington Section, Court of Valor, Lot 5512 GPS (lat/lon): 34.14472, -118.31762. Here's a picture someone took!

Maybe next year I can find some fellow Buster admirers and ride around LA going where Buster and his crew went, seeing what they saw, well not exactly what they saw.

Yesterday a friend of mine saw just one scene from Sherlock Jr. in one of her classes and was blown away. She ran to me super excited to know more about him, and what to watch. I love that moment, when in your life you see something for the first time, something amazing, and everything changes afterwards. Whether it be a cartoon, a film, a song- there are hundreds of things and moments one could probably name. I wonder if that feeling translates over to being a teacher? Putting on a Buster film to an unsuspecting crowd of students, then watching as their faces light up with joy and amazement, at least that is how I imagine it.

There are plenty of films, cartoons, tv shows etc. that have taken some influence from Buster Keaton, but never would I have thought that the biggest Buster enthusiast in today's cinema would be a Chinese guy! Jackie Chan, before he could even read English he had his office lined up with book after book about Buster, he could look at his films and probably understand everything he needed to! I do not know that much about Chan, or his films, but what I do know is that film after film of his will have some sort of Buster gag directly lifted from any given movie. The other day my teacher gave me a film that is directly inspired from a scene in Sherlock Jr. The film is called Accidental Spy, it is what I assume is a typical Jackie Chan film, a cop movie. I did not watch the whole film, but just the inspired scene, which was hilarious probably more so because I recognized how he interpreted gags that Buster did. Maybe he started some sort of interest in Buster overseas, because another chinese film, more specifically a Hong Kong film(there is a difference between HK films and mainland China) was Kung Fu Hustle by Stephen Chow. Where ever he is being celebrated does not matter, as long as he still is being remembered!

So here is my official salute: Thank You Buster!!!

UPDATE! Here's a YouTube video that shows some comparisons of Buster and Harold to Jackie Chan:


Vanoni! said...

I was a weird teenager - for some reason I became obsessed with vaudville and older comedy all through high school.

When every one else was babbling about 90210 I was reciting Marx Brothers movies verbatim and pouring through a Yiddish dictionary I'd found in the school library. I didn't get into Chaplin for some reason (until recently) but I took a liking to Keaton the first time I saw him. I remember going through a dorky stage (well, several, but that's a different matter) after seeing Benny & Joon because I thought, "oh wow! this film speaks to me! I love Keaton too!"
And I'd dress like Johnny Depp, dressing like Buster Keaton. An odd tribute to say the least. Like doing an impression of Rich Little's impression of Nixon.

Aaaaanyway - I'll be honest - I haven't checked out much Keaton lately but I thought I'd mention I was a pretty huge fan a while back. I wish I had the money to fill my apartment with DVDs - I'd love to stock up on Keaton and W.C. Fields and Marx Brothers and everyone who made me belly laugh as a kid.
I guess I've kind of lost touch with those things.

- Corbett

Art F. said...

Ah, Buster has always been great! Happy birthday to a fellow Libra!

David Germain said...

Hey, Kali, how do you feel whenever you see that one Simpsons episode where they pull up Buster Keaton's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and replace it with Troy McClure's? I personally just laugh because it pokes fun at how many decisions in Hollywood are not based on artistic integrity but yet even those idiots wouldn't even be so stupid as to violate Buster's star. I guess the Simpsons did it for pretend so that Hollywood doesn't do it for real.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mr. Keaton. Thank you for your brilliance.

minorterata said...

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Poor Buster! It's such a tiny grave!

Kali Fontecchio said...

Corbett: Nice dorky stage! Ok, directions, find local library and catch up on Buster's films (you'll be so glad you did)!

David Germain: I have not seen that episode, I'm glad I didn't, I'd cry.

Sean: Weird song, but it was fun to see pratfall after pratfall!!!

Eddie: We should draw him a better one Eddie!!!!!!

David Germain said...

Sean: Weird song, but it was fun to see pratfall after pratfall!!!

FYI, that "weird song" was Don't Bring Me Down done by the Elecric Light Orchestra c. 1979. In case you wanted to know. B)

Vanoni! said...

I adore E.L.O. - but it was a weird pairing.
I kept waiting for it to be a commercial for health insurance or something.

It did recharge the ol' interest.
I think I'll post about it.

Kali Fontecchio said...

That reminds me- I HATE the music on the Sherlock Jr. dvd, it has shitty synth and guitar- TERRIBLE.

Vanoni! said...

synth and guitar?!?? What the?

I recently picked up a couple "99¢" Chaplin DVD's at Walgreens and although they're certainly worth the money :) they took all the silent films and simply chose a random dixieland tune to play behind 'em.
The music never matches the mood of the scene - and sometimes the song ends 5 minutes before the skit does.

David Germain said...

I HATE the music on the Sherlock Jr. dvd

I'm not a fan of it either. However, I think it was supposed to sound like a James Bond soundtrack in an attempt to illustrate that Sherlock Jr. is really a spoof of the James Bond universe a good 30 years before the first book was even published.

It's nice that these people appreciate that Buster indeed was ahead of his time. But, yeah, the music does not work. I'd have preferred some improv piano or a relatively decent sized orchestra.

william wray said...

BK was amazing, sad at glance or funny in a wild action. Sad to see a giant fall. I always thought he was better and more apealing than Chaplin.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Definitely- Chaplin is good, but Buster's films linger in your mind for years. His character is more universally relatable.

Hammerson said...

I HATE the music on the Sherlock Jr. dvd, it has shitty synth and guitar

Are you sure about synth? There is electric guitar, but I can't remember any synths being used.
The same music is on all DVD versions of Sherlock Jr. It's even on the recent French mk2 box set with several newly restored BK films, so it seems like it's accepted as the official music score for Sherlock Jr. I don't really hate it, but it would be better to have the choice between two different music tracks, like it's been done on several silent film DVDs.
BTW, nice tribute to Buster. I can't decide whether I prefer him or Chaplin... they're both among the greatest geniuses of cinema.

Vanoni! said...

I guess the Chaplin/Keaton debate could be argued both ways all day long. But my money's on Keaton.
Both were groundbreakers and deserve their accolades, but like Kali's said - Keaton's stuff compells me to come back again and again.

- Corbett

Sam said...

Tis sad. Buster never got any credit from the people who stole his gags.

william wray said...

Maybe it's as simpe as Chaplin got his due and was forever remembered as the greatest of all time. where as BK was kind of forgotten. So it dosen't seem fair. Chaplin was good, but wasan't quite as good as his huge legend. BK is like finding a hidden gem, how could we have missed it?

Kali Fontecchio said...

Ya, Chaplin totally got a bigger rep for some reason. Buster seems to be a little more well known nowadays. I think his late wife Eleanor can be thanked for that. He had a revival sometime in the 50s- I still have not seen his Twilight Zone appearance, but I have seen some crappy commercials though- ick!

David Germain said...

Maybe it's as simple as Chaplin got his due and was forever remembered as the greatest of all time. where as BK was kind of forgotten.

I think it's moreso due to the fact that they had entirely different approaches to creating their films.

Chaplain would try to anticipate what the audience of his day would like to see. Keaton on the other hand wouldn't even think of the audience really. He'd just try something he thought was funny/brilliant/whatever and hope it works.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"Chaplain would try to anticipate what the audience of his day would like to see. Keaton on the other hand wouldn't even think of the audience really. He'd just try something he thought was funny/brilliant/whatever and hope it works."

I think they both did their best to entertain and please the audience on some level, Keaton didn't just brush them off. On the contrary, Chaplin in later years working on films like City Lights etc. would take years to perfect them to his high artistic standards. I'd say he's more determined to please himself rather than the audience compared to Buster.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kali, Buster Keaton Fan

I like the idea of a Keaton Odyssey around LA. I know he used to live in Woodland Hills in the '40s & 50's (after what'sername Talmadge dumped him) - anyone know his address? (I live in Woodland Hills)