1895 - 1966
Portrait by Janet Clare Hall, 2016
This year is a special one for our hostess Lea of Silent-Ology because her Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon coincides with the 100th anniversary of Buster entering the film business. Let's celebrate! Click HERE for the all the fun.
Buster Keaton makes us laugh. Even more than that, Buster Keaton inspires us. His persevering character in silent films inspires us to develop that characteristic in our own lives. His life and art in turn inspires our own creativity. His story inspires interpretation and sharing.
Certainly the best way to introduce anyone, but especially youngsters, to Buster Keaton is through his films. Read HERE about my young niece Lenny's first movie theatre experience at a screening of The Navigator. If you can follow that successful outing with a relateable picture book, then you can be assured of having made a fan for life.
Written and illustrated by Catherine Brighton and published in 2008, Keep Your Eye on the Kid, the Early Years of Buster Keaton combines the facts and legends of Buster's life from his born in a trunk beginnings to his entry into films. Along the way we learn about Vaudeville, about the skills Buster picked up, his education and his interests. We learn about the pioneering years of motion pictures. We meet the famous people who influenced Buster from Harry Houdini to Fatty Arbuckle.
The youngster hearing or reading this story will develop a kinship with the kid Buster - one of their own. Perhaps they will be inspired in their life as Buster was in his.
A Toby Bradley Adventure
by Harold D. Sill, Jr.
Illustration by Mike Eagle of Buster in Steamboat Bill Jr. for Sill's book.
Published in 1977, Harold Sill's Young Adult novel takes teenager Toby Bradley on a ghostly time travel adventure with Buster Keaton. The spectre Keaton whisks Toby back to 1920s Hollywood to give the youngster a first-hand, behind-the-scenes taste of how Buster put together some of his most famous and awesome stunts beginning with that falling house in Steamboat Bill Jr. to the racing motorcycle in Sherlock, Jr. to the cliffhanger in Our Hospitality.
Away from the studio, Toby gets a glimpse of life in the 1920s; the fashions, the celebrities and the automobiles. Along with learning about movies, which is fascinating to many tweens and teens, the reader gets a very easy to swallow history lesson. The book is a total charmer. Toby had a follow-up adventure published in 1978 with Fats Waller.
Inspired by the autobiography My Wonderful World of Slapstick and Buster's tales of The Actors' Colony founded at Bluffton by his dad Joe Keaton, Matt Phelan's beautiful graphic novel was published in 2013.
A summer home for Vaudevillians and actors by a lake in Muskegon, Michigan, the Colony existed from 1908 to 1938. Buster's vacation home during his youth is the basis for the story of a kid from the show business and a kid with stars in his eyes, and both finding their way.
Henry works in his father's hardware store, handles his chores at home and daydreams when the actors come to town. Never having seen a Vaudeville show makes the strangers even more fascinating to Henry. They bring elephants and zebras, and their own extraordinary personalities to upset the daily grind.
Henry becomes pals with a couple of kids his age; the baseball mad Buster Keaton, star of the Three Keatons, and Lex Neal, the son of actors and a future film writer. Henry enjoys hanging out with his newfound friends. He is proud of the association and admires and is jealous of Buster. Henry longs to really belong in this group. He tries to put together his own juggling act without success. He tries to get Buster to teach him some of his tricks, but it is summer and Buster would much rather play baseball. While Henry sees only glamour in Buster's trade it appears Buster sees things about Henry's regular routine that have great appeal. For one thing, Buster's stated dream of becoming a mechanical engineer is at odds with his lack of education.
The bond of friendship, along with the hurts youth can inflict on each other, are a part of each succeeding summer as the boys mature. Time passes and Henry comes to appreciate the life his family afford him. He grows up to marry the girl he's always liked and retains a connection to his friend, Buster Keaton.
The charming illustrations and the knowing text make all of the characters endearingly real in Bluffton. It brings to life an era long gone, but which deserves a place in our memory. A delightful story to share with children and a touchingly nostalgic tale for an adult curled up in their favourite reading chair.