The Great Big Beautiful Project Keaton Blogroll

Wow! What a month it’s been. I hardly know where to start .

Project Keaton has been a daily thrill over on the Project Keaton Tumblr page as well as here on The Pictorial, and with the project officially ending yesterday, I am delighted to post the our Great Big Beautiful Project Keaton Blogroll. The following is a list of every single contributor with links to their respective sites. If you haven’t been following Project Keaton on Tumblr, this is your chance to catch up on a month long of Buster Love. (Click here for a PDF of our blogroll_list.)

Silent film fans from all over the globe came out in droves to show their support for the project: England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Australia, Spain, South America and North America. The creative output has been fantastic. Thanks to every last blessed one of you for giving Buster something to smile about in October.

Buster Keaton Month
Jonathan Melville
HOLYROOD OR BUST
http://holyroodorbust.wordpress.com

Buster Keaton and Film Noir
Buster, Trains and One Week
John Bengtson
SILENT LOCATIONS
http://silentlocations.wordpress.com

Keaton in Color
Rachel
MACABRE STANWYCK
http://macabresstanwyck.tumblr.com

The Buster Keaton Cocktail
CRAZY BITCHES IN HISTORY
http://crazybitchesinhistory.tumblr.com

Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle
Buster is the 99%
PRETTY CLEVER FILMS
http://prettycleverfilms.wordpress.com

Happy Birthday Buster
Maudit
ABSURDITY
http://maudit.tumblr.com

Buster Sketch
Keaton & Cat
CHUCK LORIS
http://chuckloris.tumblr.com

116 Years of Buster Keaton
Jandy
THE FRAME
http://the-frame.com

The General: The Greatest Film Ever…?
Terence Towles Canote
A SHROUD OF THOUGHTS
http://mercurie.blogspot.com

Buster, Twitter and the 21st Century
Chris Edwards
SILENT VOLUME
http://silent-voume.blogspot.com

Buster in Color
Pidi
LITTLE LOVE NEST
http://littlelovenest.tumblr.com

How About A Little Dinner and a Show?”
Ivan
THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR
http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.wordpress.com

Busker’s Bounty
Phillip Van Scotter & Abbey Pleviak
BUSKERFLY PRODUCTIONS
http://buskerfly.com

The Artist and Buster Keaton
Will McKinley
WILL MCKINLEY
http://willmckinley.tumblr.com

“Sherlock Jr. Soundtrack”
Fern Lindzon
FERN’S FLIGHTS
http://fernjazz.wordpress.com

“Colourizations of Buster”
1001 FILMS: A SCREEN ODYSSEY
http://1001films.wordpress.com

Parkour and Pathos
SILENT STANTZAS
http://silentstanzas.blogspot.com

Tattoo Art
MILF IN TRAINING
http://milfintraining.tumblr.com

Buster Would’ve Made a Great B-Boy
Irene Vandemark
GLITTER AND DOOM
http://oak-land.tumblr.com

Viola Dana & Buster Keaton’s The General
Kathy Cocerig
VIOLA DANA
http://violadana.com

It‘s Buster Keaton’s Birthday
Keaton, Arbuckle & Chaplin
MYTHICAL MONKEY
http://mythicalmonkey.blogspot.com

A Little Bit O’ Buster in the Good Old Summertime
Brandie
TRUE CLASSICS
http://trueclassics.wordpress.com

The Accidental Surrealist
ALL ADDERS ARE PUFFS
http://alladdersarepuffs.tumblr.com

A Hard Act to Follow
THE PROVOCATEUR
http://theprovocateur.tumblr.com

Life Lessons from Buster
Trevor Jost
A MODERN MUSKETEER
http://amodernmusketeer.tumblr.com

The High Sign
Angela
THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE
http://hollywoodrevue.wordpress.com

Buster in Dutch
Janneke Maan
OVER THE EDGE OF MY HANDS
http://janneke-man.tumblr.com

Buster Keaton Art
Kate Gabrielle
SCATHINGLY BRILLIANT
http://scathingly-brilliant.blogspot.com

Porkpie Cupcakes
Girl Gatsby
THE HOUSE OF GATSBY
http://girlgatsby.blogspot.com

And congratulations as well to the lucky Project Keaton participants, soon to be chosen at random, who will be owners of the marvelous new line of Buster Pork Pie t shirts from vintage artist Girl Gatsby!

Farewell from Project Keaton– and remember to keep Buster smiling! No matter the month of the year!

And so we’re officially signing off from Project Keaton with this special tribute video prepared by the Pictorial:

Those Damn-Fine Damfinos: A Chat with the International Buster Keaton Society

The Kitty Packard Pictorial recently sat down with the Vice President of the International Buster Keaton Society for a chat about all things Keaton… and Damfino.

Some of silent film’s greatest legends are alive and well on a sleepy tree-lined street in West Hollywood. Douglas, Charlie, Roscoe, Rudy and Max (respectively) bullet out the front door in a kinetic burst of energy, every bit as charming as their silver screen counterparts, and nuzzle me up their front stoop. The rambunctious crew of spaniels belong to the lady waiting for me at the door. Dr Tracey Goessel: Vice President of the International Buster Keaton Society, Douglas Fairbanks historian supreme, an all around swell dame and owner of the most infectious little bunch of bow-wows in town.

With Doug and Charlie playing at my feet, I joined Goessel in her sitting room for a chat about the man of the hour, silent film legend Buster Keaton, and the venerable institution founded in his honor: The Damfinos.

Such is the affectionate nickname for members of The International Buster Keaton Society, an organization that has championed the Keaton legacy since 1992. Silent film fans, even if they’re not Society members, have more than likely heard of them and their tireless dedication to, as their mission statement reads, fostering an appreciation and understanding of Keaton’s life, career and films. In honor of The Pictorial’s month long celebration of the life and work of Keaton, it felt right to get The Damfino story straight from the source.

The Kitty Packard Pictorial:

Now, for the record, it’s pronounced…

Tracey Goessel:

“Damn-fi-noh!” [Laughs] The Damfinos were founded in 1992 on Buster’s birthday, October 4th, and here’s the story. [Damfino President] Patricia Tobias, her sister Wendy and their friend Melody Bunting had wanted to celebrate Buster’s birthday by baking a cake that they felt would be an homage to Buster: a cake in the shape of a pork pie hat. But when Tobias began to decorate the cake, it turned into a disaster. The icing dripped off, and looked more like a wad of dead cake-cookie-dough than a porkpie hat. So Tobias said, “How can we honor Buster’s birthday now?” So instead, they started a club… a club that has since become an international nonprofit society.

KP:

A society?

TG:

The International Buster Keaton Society. And they started calling it The Damfinos. Now, just for the record: anyone who has seen Keaton’s The Boat or College, knows that Damfino is a pun from Buster. In The Boat, he’s named his boat ‘Damfino’ and at the end of the film the boat sinks. His family is up to their knees in water and the wife turns and asks him “where are we?” We read his lips in reply: “Damned ‘f I know.” And so… we became The Damfinos. I say ‘we,’ although I didn’t actually come on board with them until 1995.

KP:

And how did you become involved?

TG:

I discovered The Damfinos when I got my very first Kino laserdisc.

KP:

Uh, oh. Watch out, laserdisc. High tech…

TG:

“Well, it was! I remember being so amazed that i could see all the wicker in the all the chairs in Steamboat Bill, Jr.! Anyway, a little card came with it saying ‘Join The Damfinos’ and I thought … holy cow. I just so happened to have had photographs of a missing sequence from the middle of The General that Keaton had filmed, and then edited out.”

KP:

Sorry, but I have to stop and ask how you came into that!

TG:

The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research has the United Artists Collections. And in that collection they had the key book stills for The General. As a college kid in Madison, I went in and studied the key book and I discovered that he had a sequence in the middle with [character actor] Snitz Edwards, our beloved Snitz, that showed him wearing a stovepipe hat. In the existing copies of the film, Keaton throws the hat away in kind of a lame gag. But see, The General is full of symmetry: the bridge burning at the beginning, and the bridge burning at the end…

KP:

Well yes, the entire second half of the film is a reverse of the first half.

TG:

Exactly. And in the dead center of the film was a sequence built around that stovepipe hat. Keaton goes into town and gets stuck: he’s in the North, has Confederate money and goes into a restaurant with Snitz Edwards where he somehow learns the Yankee’s plans and manages a comic escape. Keaton, a genius, rightly decided that the pacing of the film was such that it would have more dramatic interest with the scene that’s actually in the film– the scene with him hiding from the Confederates under the table– and cut the other sequence out. I wrote a letter to the group’s president, Patricia Eliot Tobias and The Damfinos, telling her that I had five photographs from that cut scene in The General and would they be of any interest to her and the organization? She said ‘Wow. Yes. In fact, we’re going to put out a magazine called The Great Stone Face and we can run them in that.’ [Laughs] So far we’ve only put out one issue of that magazine.”

KP:

So that’s why I could never track down any back issues!

TG:

Because there aren’t any! But our quarterly newsletter, The Keaton Chronicle, has astonishing content. Just as an example, Patty wrote an article about 10 years ago on the history of The Buford, the boat from The Navigator. If you remember Diane Keaton’s character from Reds– the woman her character was based on…

[We struggle to remember. For the record, it’s Emma Goldman]

…Well anyway, she was eventually deported from the U.S. on that same boat, The Buford. Oh, there were so many great stories she had about The Buford. And then a terrific writer started writing a column for us… you know who I mean, he writes about silent movie locations…

[This time, we nail it]

KP:

John Bengtson!

TG:

Yes! John discovered The Damfinos before he published his first book [Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton]. He came to the first Damfinos convention and had with him a bunch of snapshots that he thought we’d find interesting. So he started writing for us. To this day, every quarter we get wonderful articles from John telling us ‘here’s where Buster shot this scene here, and that scene there, and this is the street view today from this angle here…’

KP:

He’s amazing.

TG:

I don’t know how he does it.

KP:

Now, the Buster Keaton Convention is held annually in Muskegon, Michigan, the site of Buster’s summer home as a youngster, the first actual home town for Keaton…. he had spent his entire childhood up to that point on the road with the family’s vaudeville act.

TG:

The first convention was held at the time of Buster’s 100th birthday in 1995. We meet at a number of locations in Muskegon, one of them is a marvelous Victorian train station that was in fact the depot that would bring Joe and Myra and their three children– Buster, his sister Louise and brother Jingles — to Muskegon every summer. We go to the location where the Keaton’s cottage had been on the lake– there’s still a stone wall there at the lake, on which Joe and Myra had carved a little inscription. We even play baseball on the lot where Buster would play baseball every summer — a baseball field that will be renamed in Keaton’s honor next year. I mean, it’s just an empty lot, but the point is, it’s still there. It’s a very organic experience.

KP:

Sounds like an almost holistic experience.

TG:

Well, it’s still academic in ways. Our lectures are very deep and the attendees really do bring their A-Game. And let’s be honest: film nuts, and I speak for myself here, we often have the social skills of a gnat…. not always the most polished of people. But… people came. And, remember, this was the mid-1990s, before the Internet really took off, and suddenly there was a community of people who had finally found each other. They found the film family they’d never known, but always wanted. Anyone who is a football fan can find another football fan at the next bar stool. But we, as silent film fans, well, many of us spent our childhoods alone.

KP:

Yes! You spend your whole life thinking ‘Am I the ONLY person on this planet who loves this?’

TG:

Right! So, in 1995, all of the Keaton fans finally found each other. And it was a great mix of people: from NASA scientists, to doctors, to lawyers, to working class folks who’d scraped their last pennies together in order to make it to Muskegon.

KP:

Because it meant so very much to be there. So really, it’s a family event.

TG:

Absolutely. For instance, the Saturday night meal is actually a Thanksgiving type dinner — complete with turkey and all the rest — because we felt we were with our real family. We’d even have a cake that was baked in the shape of a pork pie hat. And of course, the convention has its annual quiz, which is notoriously difficult…

KP:

Do you know, in the introduction of the book Tempest in a Flat Hat, the author is at a Damfino convention. And he’s trying to keep cool, you know, thinking ‘Hey, I’m writing a book, i know must know my stuff’ … and the man is terrified.

TG:

Oh my God, I know. That quiz asks the most obscure things. I’ve never won. But I exempt myself– that’s my excuse.

KP:

But you really hit on something a minute ago: Things are so accessible now. Before the luxury of the Internet, you really had to dig deep to find each other. And to be able to connect on that level for the first time…

TG:

People had no idea there was this other community out there. And The Damfinos was one of the first organizations of its kind. In many ways, Buster united people who otherwise would never have met. And, as a matter of fact, there have been several wedding that have come of the group, including that of our president, Patricia Eliot Tobias, and her husband, film historian and Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Adamson.

KP:

I’ve said it a million times, Tracy, but I’ll say it again: If I’d had access to what kids have access to these days… well, as a middle-schooler in love with silent movies and with movie star crushes on fellas long gone — I could have been spared so much therapy.

TG:

The Mean Girls wouldn’t have mattered! But see, you’re still young enough that at least if you actually wanted to watch a silent film you could. For me, I had to read about them and then I had to work for them: I would do ironing for a dollar an hour so that I could save up to buy what were called Blackhawk Films– 8mm one or two reelers.

KP:

OK. Yeah. You win.

TG:

And now people can see 35mm caliber prints on Blu-ray, where what you’re seeing it better than projected in the theatres.

KP:

Speaking of theatre projection: this year at Turner Classic Movie Film Festival here in Hollywood, they screened The Cameraman…

TG:

I know, I was there.

KP:

Wasn’t that phenomenal?

TG:

Yes, but: the first reel was in 16mm! I was so peeved about that! Later Patty Tobias explained to me: there isn’t 35 mm source material for that first reel. But, going back to The Damfinos, every year we show an available 35mm print of a feature at a theater called the Frauenthal Theater, with live music by Chicago-area theater organist Dennis Scott. The Frauenthal is a silent film era grand palace that has, in the middle of nowhere Michigan, that’s been restored to its former glory. It is just exquisite. And to see Buster with live music, on the big screen, projected properly, in a grand theater, the middle of nowhere, is…

KP:

Sounds overwhelming.

TG:

It is. And the community comes, they aren’t that familiar with Buster’s films, but still… they know he’s sort of theirs, somehow. We used to have a little lady who’d come — she had been in vaudeville with her family — she was in her nineties then, and she remembered Buster’s family, and would tell stories… We also show rare films of Buster’s at the convention. Rare film. We’re talking old commercials, and episodes from The Donna Reed Show, even out-takes from some of the old shows, some of which, I believe, are now available on Kino. We also get to have people speak, like James Karen who used to work with Buster in the theater, and so many others. This past year, Buster’s nephew, Harry Moore, was the special guest, and he had wonderful stories from his childhood about what Buster was like. Last year, it was Bart Williams, who as a child had visited Buster and his third wife, Eleanor, at their home, plus Buster’s daughter-in-law, Barbara Talmadge, who shared her memories.

KP:

In addition to the convention, do The Damfinos host any other such special events?

TG:

Well, at one point, The Damfinos had a party at Buster’s 1920s mansion, the Italian villa.

KP:

In Beverly Hills?

TG:

Yes. It was being renovated at the time, but folks like Leonard and Alice Maltin were there, people got to dance on the floor that Valentino did the tango on, and we got to watch a film, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath, in Buster’s screening room. I mean, the film was dreadful, but it was partially filmed at the Villa, featuring rooms filmed in the house. And then we got to go into the film vault, which had been part of a garden shed, where James Mason had discovered the original prints of Buster’s films that had been thought to be lost. It was partially underground, and it was where Buster used to do his editing. So in the 1950s, James Mason moves into the house, discovers all of these films, and that leads to the rediscovery of Keaton’s films in the ‘50s.

KP:

See, I thought it was in the 1960s…

TG:

The films were found in the 1950s, and by the early 1960s they were making the rounds at places like The Venice Film Festival.

KP:

God bless James Mason.

TG:

And, of course, we also had the privilege of enjoying the support of [Buster’s widow] Eleanor Keaton.

KP:

She was a strong supporter of the organization, right?

TG:
Incredibly strong. And was she ever a tough, no nonsense lady.

KP:

Really?

TG:
Well, she sort of had to be. It was her temperament: her father died when she was very young, and she was on her own supporting herself from the age of 14.

KP:

So the Damfinos got to know her very well, then?

TG:

Yes, very well. We even were able to help with medical bills when her health was failing. One major contribution was that we were able to work with her on getting some original source material. She even let us borrow and copy (and we ultimately encouraged her to donate to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) were Buster’s date books. It’s a series of small notebook from the 1910s that Buster used to keep track of the family’s travel around the country on their vaudeville circuits. vaudeville sketches. When you read through them, you could almost see when the trains were departing; in one book, he’d draw little sketches, and when it was summertime and the family was getting ready to go to vacation in Muskegon, Michigan, he’d draw a happy face and it would write the word “home”…

KP:

Muskegon was his home even back in the teens?

TG:

Muskegon was his only childhood home. That was the only place he had that was constant– stable. The book also shows that he was managing the money. A great insight that shows how he wasn’t some kind of illiterate. I mean, he was still a youngster and was keeping the books.

KP:

Minding the books of one of the most successful Vaudeville acts around! Couldn’t his father be counted on to do the job?

TG:

His father was busy booking the act around the country and writing a really innovative advertising campaign for them. Later on, when Buster was in his late teens, Joe became an alcoholic, which ultimately led Buster and his mother to break up the act in 1917.

KP:

But by the time Buster was a young man…

TG:

Later, as an artist, Buster had very little interest in business. He really never in any way shape or form negotiated favorable deals for himself. And I wonder whether his lack of interest came from that experience in his youth, or whether it was just his temperament… but Eleanor’s sharing that original source material was absolutely invaluable.

KP:

And it makes perfect psychological sense as well.

TG:

It’s just heart wrenching because what you’re seeing is this guy who is essentially still a youngster doing all this work. You also get to see the first day he worked in films: it’s noted in the 1917 date book. The day that Butcher’s Boy was released, is noted it in Buster’s calendar. So you could see this almost day-by-day account of his life. Really, thank god for Eleanor Keaton.

KP:
Have any other of Keaton’s family become involved with The Damfinos?

TG:

Oh yes, a lot of Buster’s relatives have become interested and involved. One of our board members is Melissa Talmadge Cox, who stepped in after Eleanor died to become the family spokesperson.

KP:

[gasp] A Talmadge!

TG:

Melissa is one of Buster and Natalie’s six grandchildren. She has a lot of memories of her grandfather, because she was teenager when Buster died. She’d go over to his house and visit, and she also spent a lot of time with her aunties, 1920s movie stars Constance and Norma Talmadge, both in Los Angeles and New York; they would take her shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue– dress her up right, you know. Melissa even has a bob like Connie, and bears an uncanny resemblance to that aunt. She’s just been so interested and has brought a lot of rich material to our board.

The Damfinos also give an annual grant called The Porkpie Scholar Grant, which began a couple of years ago after the group received an anonymous donation. It is given to individuals and groups working on Keaton-related projects, whether writing a new music score, restoring a film, writing a book or whatever. or example, our grant helped out author Eileen Whitfeld, who wrote a wonderful Mary Pickford biography (Pickford: The Woman who Made Hollywood) and is working on what may become the definitive Keaton biography. The second year, it was given to Jack Dragga, who is working on a documentary about a failed project from the 1960s called Ten Girls Ago. So, going from what people might have thought of a just a funny, eccentric little club of film lunatics, we have in fact we have grown to the point to where we can be not only self sustaining, but self sustaining and actually give back to the film community. And we will continue to do so.

KP:

And funding is supported almost primarily through Damfino merchandise sales, correct?

TG:

Yes. All through sales from Keaton-related items because The Damfinos have the licensing rights, through an arrangement with the Douris Corporation (which owns the rights to many Keaton films and to his image), to reproduce Buster’s image. Beth Pederson, who is The Damfinos’ treasurer, is so wonderfully creative at putting things together. We even sell custom-made porkpie hats. But, really, Patricia Eliot Tobias has been our guiding light. When she and her husband got married, who by the way wrote a terrific book on the Marx Brothers, they got married in Cottage Grove, Oregon, where Keaton filmed The General. On a covered bridge very close to where the train from The General had gone over, and their wedding reception was just feet away from the part of town where Buster was kicked out of the recruiting station in The General. Joe wore Buster’s cummerbund, which Keaton had worn to accept his honorary Oscar in 1960, and Patty carried in her bouquet a four-leaf clover that Buster had picked and given to Eleanor some 35 years earlier.

KP:

A fairy tale wedding for silent film fans!

TG:

Such a wonderful love story.

KP:

Now, earlier you mentioned you would do the doing ironing for money as a kid, so you could afford to buy these silent two-reelers. Was film something you were brought up around?

TG:

No, not at all! I was the oddball. I was 11 years old and I ran across Lillian Gish’s autobiography, The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me … and I was hooked. That was it. I was so interested in that world that I pursued it. My parents were, you know, working folks and they really didn’t know what to do about it. And then one day my dad came home with a copy of Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone By.

KP:

The perfect book!

TG:

Yeah, I’ve got a first edition, actually. And I made Kevin Brownlow autograph it “To Tracey, who taught me everything i need to know about silent cinema.” He said “Right… you’re sure you want me to write this?” I said, “Yes Kevin. Just write it.”

KP:

“Kevin, this is like God signing my Bible.”

TG:

Exactly. I want my children to find this one day and think ‘Wow, mom taught Kevin Brownlow everything he needed to know about silent cinema? He published it in ‘68, so she was… 11?’

KP:

Well, hey, what can you say? You were a child prodigy.

TG:

Yep. Taught him everything. Brownlow looked at me like I was crazy. See, Kevin’s very dry. He was…

KP:

Stone-faced?

TG:

Very.

KP:

As if we needed another reason to love him.

Join The Damfinos and their international family of Buster Keaton fans online at http://www.busterkeaton.com

Project Keaton Guest Post: Silent Volume

Silent film blogger Chris Edwards runs Silent Volume, a site dedicated to the art of silent filmmaking. Its tagline, “this medium is not dead,” is backed by a wealth of reviews, editorials and general musings on silent films great and small.  In conjunction with Project Keaton, Edwards has written a fabulous piece exploring the deeply human everyman appeal of Keaton’s work and its particular relevance in the 21st century. Follow him @SilentVolume

***

Framed: Keaton in THE GOAT (1921)

My Twitter avatar is Buster Keaton. It’s a screenshot of him, behind bars, from THE GOAT, one of his short films.

People love it. They’ve called it ‘perfect.’ It’s cool to them the way Buster’s bars exactly touch the edges of the frame, as though he’s imprisoned in Twitter’s own digital superstructure. One small, innocent man, peeking out of one window, in a building that has millions of them.

I didn’t think about this when I chose it. I just thought the picture looked funny. But reflecting back on it now, after a couple of years, maybe this little picture sums up why Buster matters so much to me. Not just as a fan of silent films, or as someone who writes about them regularly—but as a modern person, navigating life. Buster is me, or us, in a way the other clowns weren’t.

Almost all of us want to understand how the world works, if only so that we can fit into it better. We want to be happy, comfortable, respected, loved. We want fulfillment, freedom, sex—all the usuals. And the better we ‘get’ our world, particularly the circles in which we want to travel, the easier all this becomes to achieve. I’m not excepting the counter-culture types here either; at heart we all want to succeed on our own terms, and the most alternative person you know still, probably, wants to be part of his or her world. The only people who don’t are hermits—or possibly tramps—and you don’t know many of them.

However, most of us are not fulfilled or successful. And if we are, we’re encouraged not to rest on our laurels—to keep striving. This can be a tense thing, because the world remains big and complicated and we can’t always be sure what we’re striving for, or how reasonable our chances really are. On our bad days, we wonder if we’re good enough; on our worst days, we get metaphysical: wondering if the world is designed to thwart us.

It is a gigantic, amoral, mysterious, multi-geared machine of a world like this that all of Buster Keaton’s characters occupy, and yet, every version of him does his best to work within it. Think of the newlywed in ONE WEEK: a man who dreams of building a house; who owns the parts; who has the instructions for assembly and the mindset to follow them strictly. And he does. And he’s destroyed, because unknown to him, the man his wife turned down has changed the numbers on the crates. The house has all the right pieces, but none in the right order.

And yet he tries and tries to make it right. Just as he tries to please the people he cares about, from the sweet wife in that film to the cruel girlfriends in SPITE MARRIAGE and THE GENERAL. Can you imagine one of Fatty Arbuckle’s louts negotiating the terrain of social graces that Buster must in OUR HOSPITALITY? What about the Tramp? I think the Tramp would sooner get drunk.

The exceptions prove the rule. Buster’s sociopathic gunman in THE FROZEN NORTH is a dream; just like his alpha-male master sleuth in SHERLOCK, JR. In THE NAVIGATOR, Buster’s hero is born into wealth, but it does him no good. All Buster’s little fellows are part of the system, trying to work their way through it. They’re never trying to escape it. That would mean giving up.

Back to the Twitter thing. I was saying (actually, tweeting) to someone just today about how most people on Twitter are trying to promote themselves, one way or another. They have a sense of their own smallness, because they think so much about the world, in its vastness. They also think about how to get bigger, and see Twitter as a tool that can help. They’re convinced it can be done.

That’s a modern philosophy, and it’s a Buster philosophy all the way.

How would the other clowns approach Twitter? Lloyd would tweet regular updates about the weather and his kids’ favorite songs. Langdon wouldn’t get it—he’d try updating from his rotary phone. Arbuckle would spam you. And Chaplin, I think, wouldn’t have an account, though you’d still hear from him somehow. But Buster would be there.

It’s Buster, in spirit and in shared plight, who speaks to us best.

Now, none of this makes him better than the others. For what it’s worth, I give Buster the nod for best silent comedy feature (THE GENERAL), but not for best short (Arbuckle’s CONEY ISLAND and HE DID AND HE DIDN’T transcend even COPS and THE PLAYHOUSE). Nor was Buster the actor, innovator, businessman, or comedy polymath that Chaplin was. But Buster had genius, and his particular brand of it has aged the best.

You know… I don’t call Chaplin, Arbuckle or Lloyd by their first names. Funny thing, that.

My Somewhat Neurotic Relationship with Buster Keaton Movies and Why They Make Me OK with Being Me.

Image ©2011 ~TheBalloonMan

So here we are, day one of Project Keaton. Submissions are pouring in and The Pictorial is buzzing with excitement. The Project’s Tumblr and Facebook pages are up and running and … this is gonna be awesome, guys.

So for the first official Project Keaton post, I’m going to be a total prima-donna and grab the mic for a minute and reflect back on why the heck Keaton matters very much to me in the first place.

But I’m gonna leave the sociological and academic analysis of his films and their seismic influence on the framework of modern cinema to the Leonard Maltins and the David Thomsons out there, and instead, simply confess that the reason I love Keaton is because of something he excelled so very much in:

Timing.

Now, as you all know, I am a massive Charlie Chaplin fan. MASSIVE. In many ways, Charlie is the love of my life. I was 10 years old when I fell in love with Charlie. A wondrous, marvelous, romantic age to discover anything.

I was 14 when I saw my first Buster Keaton film.

Being 14 sucks. In fact… few things suck more than being 14. (Except, maybe, 15.)

Which is why Sherlock Jr. absolutely rocked my world when I first saw it flicker on the old movie channel one random weekend. If anyone’s life sucked more than mine, it was Buster’s. That sweetly honest stone face that just couldn’t catch a break. The woman in his life was weak, his boss was a jerk, his future prospects were dim, he’s painfully awkward and the only ray of sunshine in his life involved celluloid fantasies.

Yeah. I knew that guy.

Here I am at the cusp of 30 and I realize that I will always know this guy. And when chaos consumes, and all I have to keep my sanity is my sense of humor, there is nothing more therapeutic than a Keaton film. That’s when I switch on Steamboat Bill Jr to watch Buster battle hurricanes, or Seven Chances to watch him dodge a gang of pissed off jilted brides, or The Cameraman to watch him fight urban turf wars.

It’s absurd.

But so is life.

Buster knows it. His films get it. And, in so many ways, he is all of us. Buster doesn‘t always get the girl, beat the bad guy or ride off into the sunset… and somehow, it’s still OK. Which is why 116 years after he was born, we’re still so deeply affected by his work. And only one of the countless reasons the Pictorial is championing that deeply human comedy of his in our month-long celebration of all things Keaton.

Thanks, Buster, for always keepin’ it real.

The 21st Century REALLY needs you.

And so do 14 year olds.

*puts down mic, disembarks soapbox, and lets the festivities begin*