We often talk about Jackie Chan and Tom Cruise when it comes to insane stunts, but where do you think they got the charm and humor they inject into them?
The answer is Buster Keaton.
The iconic, multitalented filmmaker, who became an outright star in the 1920s, performed countless daring feats throughout his career, namely the motorcycle stunts in Sherlock Jr., the falling house stunt in Steamboat Bill Jr., and who could forget The General, which features a dejected Buster sitting on the crankshaft of a train as it pulls out of the station? Check out some of his best stunts with his audio commentary below.
Joseph Frank Keaton, known professionally as Buster Keaton, was an American actor, comedian, film director, producer, screenwriter, and stunt performer.
He got the name from his father, who thought "Buster" was funny. Keaton was one of the kings of the silent era. A man who was known for his deadpan humor and nimble acrobatics that seemed to defy gravity. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929" when he "worked without interruption" on a series of films that made him "the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."
Keaton started in vaudeville but found insane success in movies. His work on films like Sherlock Jr. and The General are among some of the most unique and wonderful performances.
Even more so than Chaplin, Keaton put his body on the line for his work.
Buster Keaton in 'The General'
Keaton survived Fatty Arbuckle and went on to be one of the most popular directors of the time. He wound up signing with MGM and losing his control of both the story and his characters. This ultimately drove him out of the business.
Keaton had a sad end to life, but in death was remembered by many as one of the greatest who ever lived.
Entertainment Weekly called him the 6th greatest director of all time and funnily enough, the rise of TV meant that people found Keaton in the 1950s. He had many appearances on TV and saw a revival of his older movies.
Now, we remember Keaton as an artist who put his body in harm's way for his work, inspiring many generations across genres after him.
Tons of Keaton's earlier short films are now in the public domain, which means you can watch them here for free!