Virtual Conversation: Jim Curtis & Buster Keaton

By Lambs Club 2/17/22

February 16, 2022. [Video Below]

On February 15thKnopf will publish a major biography BUSTER KEATON: A Filmmaker’s Journey by acclaimed cultural and film historian James Curtis—the first in more than two decades, of the legendary comedian and filmmaker who elevated physical comedy to the highest of arts and whose ingenious films remain as startling, innovative, modern, and irresistible, today as they were when they beguiled audiences almost a century ago.  It was James Agee who christened Buster Keaton “The Great Stone Face.” Keaton’s face, Agee wrote, “ranked almost with Lincoln’s as an early American archetype; it was haunting, handsome, almost beautiful, yet it was also irreducibly funny. Keaton was the only major comedian who kept sentiment almost entirely out of his work and . . . he brought pure physical comedy to its greatest heights.”

Keaton’s deadpan stare in a porkpie hat was as recognizable as Charlie Chaplin’s tramp and Harold Lloyd’s straw boater and spectacles, and, with W. C. Fields, the four were each considered a comedy king—but Keaton was, and still is, considered to be the greatest of them all.

His iconic look and acrobatic brilliance obscured the fact that behind the camera Keaton was one of our most gifted filmmakers. Through nineteen short comedies and twelve magnificent features, he distinguished himself with such seminal works as Sherlock Jr.The NavigatorSteamboat Bill, Jr.The Cameramanand his masterpiece, The General.

Now James Curtis, admired biographer of Preston Sturges (“definitive”—Variety), W. C. Fields (“by far the fullest, fairest and most touching account we have yet had. Or are likely to have”—Richard Schickel, front page of The New York Times Book Review), and Spencer Tracy (“monumental; definitive”—Kirkus Reviews), among others, gives us the richest, most comprehensive life to date of the legendary actor, stunt artist, screenwriter, director—master.

  • THE FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF KEATON IN MORE THAN TWO DECADES: Curtis looks beyond the myths perpetuated by previous biographers.
  • THE LOVE OF KEATON ONLY GROWS: Peter Bogdanovich’s 2018 prize-winning documentary preceded the 2019, 2020 4k restoration releases of the Buster Keaton Collection in four hugely successful volumes.
  • KEATON FESTIVALS to be held at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles in February and at Film Forum in NY throughout March.

“Just as Buster Keaton’s work transcends its flowering in silent films, so James Curtis’s biography transcends the category of show business biography. In a narrative that majestically carries its subject from 19th-century vaudeville to Cinerama to Immortality, Keaton is given his due, not just as an artist, but as a man who lived a paradigmatic American Life.”
Scott Eyman