“He Really Can Smile”–A Charming 1921 Buster Keaton Interview

Hold onto your slapshoes, Buster fans! This is one of the most fantastic interviews I’ve seen with the twenty-something Keaton. Unlike some of the more well known interviews with him from the Jazz Age (those published in Buster Keaton: Interviews, up for free viewing in the great Taylorogy site, and circulating in various biographies), this one was not taken while Keaton was in “shy mode” and captures a bit more than his responses to the usual “why don’t you ever smile?” and “how do you come up with your gags?” questions (he answered these approximately seventy-four thousand times). How this one has managed to slip under the radar so much, I’ll never know. It’s a charmer.

Some background: The interview was taken some time in the spring of 1921 while Keaton was recovering in the hospital from the broken ankle he had gotten when a stunt for The Electric House (1922) went awry. Although the interview clearly took place before his May 31, 1921 marriage to Natalie Talmadge, oddly enough it didn’t make its way into Picture-Play Magazine until July 1921, naturally without any context (oh twenties fan magazines, how I love thee).

could’ve just added a link to the article and gone about my day, but I was so overcome with delight that I decided to feverishly transcribe the whole thing so you can read it here whenever you want. Any punctuation, capitalization and spelling oddities are directly from the magazine, because…why not. Enjoy!

HE REALLY CAN SMILE

And strangely enough it was in the hospital that “Buster” Keaton first proved it. There’s a good reason for his smiling, and her name is Natalie Talmadge, soon to be Natalie Keaton.

By Emma-Lindsay Squier

“Well, Mr. Keaton,” I said kindly, “I’m sorry to have to interview you here.”

“Well, Miss Squier,” said Mr. Keaton just as kindly, “I’m sorry to have you.” Continue reading