Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buster Keaton's genius celebrated anew

For those who missed it, I'm capturing the following from the Muskegon Chronicle Editorial page

Friday, October 03, 2008

Buster Keaton's genius celebrated anew this weekend

Any serious student of motion pictures is conversant with the writing of the late James Agee, whose criticism of the industry and its artists was merciless, intense -- and completely on the mark. Yet there was one on whom Agee consistently showered praise: Muskegon's Buster Keaton.

"No other comedian could do as much with the dead-pan," Agee wrote of Keaton's comic genius for Life magazine in 1949. "He used this great, sad, motionless face to suggest various related things; a one-track mind near the track's end of pure insanity; mulish imperturbability under the wildest of circumstances; how dead a human being can get and still be alive; an awe-inspiring sort of patience and power to endure, proper to granite but uncanny in flesh and blood. Everything that he was and did bore out this rigid face and played laughs against it. When he moved his eyes, it was like seeing them move in a statue."

Agee continued: "His short-legged body was all sudden, machinelike angles, governed by a daft aplomb. When he swept a semaphorelike arm to point you could almost hear the electrical impulse to the signal block. When he ran from a cop, his transitions from accelerating walk to easy jogtrot to brisk canter to headlong gallop to flogged-piston sprint - always floating, above this frenzy, the untroubled, untouchable face -- were as distinct and as soberly in order as an automatic gearshift."

This weekend is your chance to either discover the great Keaton, or to rediscover his silent film-era brilliance. In conjunction with the 14th Annual International Buster Keaton Society Convention of his fan society, the "Damfinos," two of the comedian's biggest box-office smashes will be returning to the screen at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon this weekend: "Battling Butler (1926) and "The Navigator" (1924).

The 8 p.m. Saturday shows will be accompanied by the theater organ performance of Dennis Scott, so the experience will be like that of any theatergoer of the 1920s. Should be a real treat.
And welcome back, "Damfinos," to Muskegon, adopted hometown of Buster Keaton!

Agee's article entitled "Comedy's Greatest Era, appeared in the September 5, 1949 issue of Life. It was the beginning of a new beginning for Keaton. Only months before, he had returned to Muskegon, accompanied this time with his new bride, Eleanor. Nearly forgotten in Hollywood, the article marked his return to the public eye. Television would soon offer a new audience and new generations of people that could witness his talent. Before long, Keaton was as busy as ever.

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