“The Butcher Boy” (1917) Turns 100 Today!

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We made it, folks. THIS IS IT. Buster Keaton’s very first film–Roscoe Arbuckle’s fantastic The Butcher Boy (1917), distributed by Paramount Pictures–was released on this day 100 years ago. This is when his career in cinema truly began.

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Please enjoy this priceless rare lobby card that just popped up on Google out of nowhere.

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Happy Centennial Of Buster Entering Films!!!

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Today is the day, folks. Chills!!

Back on Sunday we gave a nod to the day that’s thought to be when Buster Keaton visited Roscoe Arbuckle’s Comique studios for the very first time (or, at the very least, met friend Lou Anger and Roscoe himself on the streets of NYC). While there’s been a bit of confusion about these dates in the past, thanks to Buster’s surviving datebook we can confirm that he absolutely, 100% went to Comique on March 21st, 1917 to film The Butcher Boy! Today, he was captured by the motion picture camera in this very scene below…for all time! (And let’s give a shout out to the patient Mr. Méliès, who doesn’t mind that we keep interrupting his theme month. *wink*)

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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

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon–Celebrating 100 Years Of Buster!

My friends, I’m thrilled to announce:

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I’m thrilled not just because this is a fantastic annual event celebrating one of the finest, most beloved comedians who ever walked this earth, but because 2017 marks 100 years since Buster first entered the movies on that fateful day in NYC back in 1917. That makes this blogathon an extra special one, and frankly, I’ve been waiting for it for years. Continue reading

In Defense Of “The Big Four” Of Silent Comedy

There’s an old quote you may have heard, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I’d like to amend that: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death, taxes, and fans of silent comedy debating about the ranking of the Big Four.” (Or the “Big Three,” for the multitudes of you who haven’t made Harry Langdon an integral part of your lives yet.)

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There’s a reason Harry’s wiping away a tear.

General film enthusiasts take the informal-yet-widespread ranking of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd as the all-time best silent comedians for granted (and more would include Harry if they would actually watch Harry, harumph), but for some time now the tide has been changing among silent comedy fans. It’s not uncommon to find arguments in favor of less emphasis on “The Big Four,” of adding or replacing a comedian or two, or even of ditching the ranking all together. Those in favor of the latter say there were lots of popular comedians back in the silent era, and furthermore, these unjustly overlooked folks could be just as funny as Lloyd or Keaton. Thus, the ranking is unfair and not even historically accurate. Right? Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Le Roi des Champs-Elysees” (1934)

This is  my own contribution to the Second Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon. I hope you enjoy!

Buster Keaton fans are well aware of his much-discussed, sometimes-derided 1930s MGM talkies (and more than a little of that derision came from Buster himself). Speak Easily, Doughboys, and Sidewalks of New York are a few of the titles that pop up in conversation after online conversation–features that used the multi-talented director Keaton solely as an actor, and showed it.

But if there’s one Keaton feature that’s rarely discussed, either by fans or historians, it’s Le Roi des Champs-Élysées (1934). This independent French film was made about a year after Keaton was dismissed from MGM Studios. The sad story of that dismissal is all too familiar to fans–a slow downward spiral of unhappiness at work and unhappiness at home, and the bottom of bottle after bottle. But if there was ever a sign of hope in those dark, frightening months of blackouts and sanitariums, it can be found in this overlooked film.  Continue reading

Buster Blogathon UPDATE! (A Prize Drawing…And More!)

Only ten days until the Second Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!! Are you getting as excited as I am?!

Although NO ONE’S as excited as Buster clearly is in this photo!

I’m doubly excited about what I’m about to share right now. You might remember that in my original announcement post I mentioned a drawing for all the blogathon participants. Well, I’ve got the details for you–and how! Continue reading