A Great Big THANK YOU And A Round Of Applause!

The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon has come to a close, and I wanted to say:

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Yes, you are seeing that correctly. That is the world’s most mindblowing photo of Buster Keaton, LAUGHING OUT LOUD for the world to see!! (Look at his TEETH!! WHEN DO YOU EVER GET TO SEE THOSE.) I first saw a copy of it thanks to historian Ed Watz, and this particular one was illustrating a 1930s magazine story about Buster directing shorts for MGM. It was published in March 1938 (I don’t know the magazine unfortunately–let me know if you do!) Continue reading

Analyzing The Molasses Scene From “The Butcher Boy”

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This is my own post for the Third Annual Busterthon–hope you enjoy!

It’s one of the most famous scenes in all of silent comedy–the “can of molasses” scene from the Roscoe Arbuckle short The Butcher Boy (1917). This had the honor of being former vaudevillian Buster Keaton’s very first scene ever committed to celluloid. He always spoke of it with fondness and in his later years he enjoyed reenacting it for TV shows. And significantly, he would say that it had been done in one take. He’s often quoted from his autobiography, My Wonderful World of Slapstick:

Incidentally, I’ve been told that my first scene in The Butcher Boy is still the only movie-comedy scene ever made with a newcomer that was photographed only once. In other words my film debut was made without a single retake.  p. 93.

Having watched The Butcher Boy approximately 458 times, I now wonder: if we examined the gag frame-by-frame, could we discover how this seemingly simple scene was put together? And was the entire molasses scene done in one take? Can we spot any clues that would prove it? Clear your schedules, my friends, ’cause this is about to get detailed.

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The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon – Celebrating 100 Years of Buster!

IT IS HERE.

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UPDATE 2/21/17: The third and final day of the blogathon is here! New posts are up and ready for viewing, enjoy!

For the third year in a row we’re celebrating the work of our genius in slapshoes, the one and only Buster Keaton. His work is timeless, his mark on film history irreplaceable, and of course, he was the master of making us laugh. And this time around we are also commemorating a special year: the centennial of Buster’s entry into films, a milestone year that will never come again.

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100 years ago Buster agreed to play a scene in Roscoe Arbuckle’s brand new Comique two-reeler. And movie audiences have been falling for his talent and humor ever since.

Bloggers: Please send me the link to your post whenever it’s ready today, tomorrow, or Tuesday. I’ll be updating periodically throughout the blogathon. Don’t forget that I’ll be holding a drawing for all participants, the winners receiving a either a $25 gift certificate to Buster Stuff, a copy of Imogene Sara Smith’s book The Persistence of Comedy, or the DVD set Industrial Strength Keaton! The drawing will be held on February 22.

Readers: Drop by often to see the latest posts–and don’t forget that we bloggers adore comments. And when you’re finished reading all the wonderful posts, why not pop in a few Buster films? It’s BK100, y’all–let’s celebrate!

And once again, here are the links to the First and Second Annual Buster Blogathons.

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The Roster:

Silent-ology: Analyzing the Molasses Scene From The Butcher Boy 

Silver Screenings: Steamboat Bill, Jr. or Buster Keaton and the Important Things in Life

Special Purpose Movie Blog: The General: Factual or Fictional?

MovieMovieBlogBlog: For the Love of Buster Keaton

Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood: An Early Keaton Fan: Grace Kingsley

Big Riot V Squad: Buster Keaton: From Stage to Screen

Finding Nelson Evans: Keaton’s Leading Ladies in Pictures

Caftan Woman: Review of the books Keep Your Eye on the Kid, Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton, and Keaton Comedies: A Toby Bradley Adventure

Silent Locations: Amazing New Keaton Discoveries: My Wife’s Relations

Life’s Daily Lessons BlogA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 

Little Bits of Classics: Chaplin and Keaton: Two Friends in the Limelight

Popcorn Optional: Buster Keaton: A Wonderful World of Slapstick

Welcome To My Magick Theatre: Buster Goes to College

Senseless Cinema: The Haunted Worlds of Buster Keaton

An Ode to Dust: Buster Keaton: In the Works (Graphic novel project)

Century Film ProjectOh Doctor!

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie ReviewsOur Hospitality

Critica Retro: Review of My Wonderful World of Slapstick

The Fyuzhe: On Buster’s Television Work

Hometowns to Hollywood: Buster’s Hometown of Piqua, Kansas

Prince of Hollywood: 100 Years of Buster Keaton: The First Films of a Comedy Legend

The Midnite Drive-In: Twilight Zone episode “Once Upon a Time”

The Scribe Files: Buster, Italian Style (or Due Marines e un Maestro)

Christina Wehner: The Joy of Discovering Buster Keaton

The Wonderful World of Cinema: My First Time With Buster Keaton: One Week

The Lonely CriticThe Navigator

Lost Films: “In The Year 2014” (1914)

Few things are more surreal than looking through a 100-year-old movie magazine only to see a title like this staring up at you! One of many, many, many lost films, In the Year 2014 (1914) was a split-reel comedy meant to be enjoyed for a day or two and then replaced by the next comedy.

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Motography, Nov. 7 1914

It was also one of many, many, many Joker comedies from a time when little films were “ground out like sausages,” as the saying often went. Joker, the slapstick branch of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, was created to compete with Keystone comedies. Its films are thought to have been slapdash and silly–“thought,” because unfortunately the majority of them are lost. The titles will fill you with longing: Love, Roses and Trousers, At the Bingville Booster’s Barbecue, The Mechanical Man, and one of my favorites, Lady Baffles and Detective Duck in the Great Egg Robbery.

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And if the longing wasn’t bad enough, the stills always look like so much fun. 

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BLOGATHON UPDATE: The Third Annual Busterthon Is Almost Here!

Silent-ology’s grand Buster celebration is a little over a week away, everyone!! Are you as excited as I am?!

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Quite a few bloggers have signed up for this event, and since 2017 is a special year I’ve gone all out and decided that Silent-ology will be holding not one, not two, but three drawings for all blogathon participants! (The hundred-year anniversary of Buster entering films ain’t happening again, folks!) Here are the prizes: Continue reading

“The Biograph Girl”–The Career Of Early Star Florence Lawrence

For a long time the world knew her as “The Biograph Girl.” Family and friends knew her as “Flo.” And in time, fans would know her by her full, rhyming name, “Florence Lawrence.” And today we also tend to add this phrase–“The First Movie Star.”

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Contrary to popular lore she wasn’t technically the first movie star, but she certainly was one of the earliest. Continue reading

Silent-ology Is Three Years Old Today!

Three years ago to the day I hesitantly hit “publish” on an article about Chaplin (and man what a nervewracking moment that was), and “Silent-ology” was on its way. And now, three full, busy years later……….we’re finally starting to scratch the surface of silent film topics write about!!! (I’m kind of serious. There’s just so much.)

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Thanks, guys!

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A Sad Farewell To Historian David Shepard

Yesterday evening, January 31st, brought some sad news–the great historian and film preservationist David Shepard had passed away.

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This is a huge loss to anyone who loves silents and supports film preservation. Shepard is responsible for the restorations of Intolerance, The Navigator, Man With a Movie Camera, The Gold Rush, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Cheat, and countless others. To say that we owe him one is an understatement.

Shepard worked at Blackhawk Films in the 1960s (and bought the company in 1987), became a preservationist at the American Film Institute, and eventually started his own company, Film Preservation Associates. He’s worked with Kino, Flicker Alley, many film festivals, and has won awards for his tireless work. He has been both a huge help and huge inspiration to countless historians. In some of their own words:

“David was an extraordinary individual. I do not think it hyperbole to state that he significantly inspired most of our current film historians and archivists, and his countless works have been viewed and loved by nearly every serious classic film fan.”

“A Giant in the Film Preservation world has taken his leave from us this evening. A friend to so many of us, his legacy is large and immeasurable.”

“There was no better advocate for restoring classic films and making them available to modern audiences. I pray that David is chatting with many of the film greats in heaven today.”

“He leaves behind one heck of a legacy, as well as an influence on all of us who follow in his footsteps.”

Shepard had been suffering from an inoperable cancer, and passed away with his family, friends, and beloved dog at his side. He will be greatly missed.

My Top 10 Favorite Silent Films (So Far)

So I’ve been thinking: good ol’ Internet listicles are fun. And depending on the context, they can tell you a little about the writer, too. Here I’ve been publishing posts on our beloved old films week in and week out, and never thought to write the most basic one of all–a “my favorite silents” list. So allow me to tell you a little about myself.

Needless to say, picking just ten films was a task akin to scaling Mount Everest. I don’t know if my list is the most surprising one in the world (no worries, it’s not smugly crammed with obscure social dramas from Finland or something), but here it is, in no particular order–except for #1! (Links are included for the ones I’ve reviewed so far.)

10. Metropolis (1927)

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Thoughts On: “La La Land” (2016)

There really aren’t a ton of movies I’ll see in the theater. Big blockbuster extravaganzas like The Force Awakens or Dr. Strange? Of course! The usual marvelous offering by Pixar? I’m there! An occasional indie might peak my interest, and naturally I’m attracted to any silent or classic film showing like a bee to the can of pop you’re holding. (If only those showings weren’t so few and far between.)

But when I caught wind of a brand-new musical drama set in modern-day L.A. that included–could it be?–subtle homages to Hollywood’s Golden Age, I thought: “Yes, please!

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