I not only spend a lot of time thinking about Keaton, I spend a great deal of time wondering why I seem to think so much about Keaton. But he is a remarkable person and a hard one to shake; and his films may be just a small part of that. I believe that people who get to know him through his films are drawn in for reasons far beyond his sheer talent; he is cherished for his soul.
So why do I love Buster Keaton:
10. Because he says things like this: “I’ve had few dull moments and not too many sad and defeated ones. In saying this, I am by no means overlooking the rough and rocky years I’ve lived through. But I was not brought up thinking life would be easy. I always expected to work hard for my money and to get nothing I did not earn. And the bad years, it seems to me, were so few that only a dyed-in-the-wool grouch who enjoys feeling sorry for himself would complain.”
9. Because of the way he continually showed a modest and unassuming sweetness when given tributes at the end of his career, accepting them in a genuinely touched and emotional way. The guy was clearly a lovely person.
8. For the way he never stopped working. Even when he could no longer make films his way and when his work didn’t have much of an audience, he kept doing what he knew. He was willing to start at the bottom as an idea-man and work his way up again. And on that way up, mentored and nurtured other amazing talents – like Red Skelton, Donald O’Connor and Lucille Ball.
7. Because of his charming adoration for his lovely wife Elanor.
6. For the incredible body of films he left us as a director. And for being an engineer/filmmaker exploring the medium in its infancy with an incredible exuberance, techno-savvy fearlessnes, and inexhaustible creativity. He’d have left an amazing legacy even if he had been “just” a director.
5. OK, this one may seem shallow but its his Eyes. A no brainer, I guess. They’re not just astonishingly huge and beautiful, they area wonder to behold — kind, sad, intelligent, sweet, and expressive. His eyes melt my heart. Whether looking through them as an 18 year old or a 60 year old, his soul just shines.
4. Buster was not educated. There is not a grain of self-importance or pompousness in him, yet his intelligence and his clear assumptions about the intelligence of his audience are overwhelming. His work is not just funny, it’s very smart. He constantly makes choices that are unexpected and clever. Not only does he have fun with irony, but it’s clear that Keaton expects his audience to “get’ the subtle twists he layers in everywhere.
3. His stunning physicality. The man is strong and gentle in equal measure; he walks around through the world making reality suit his requirements. He has an astonishing grace that is hard to put into writing. You either know exactly what I mean, or my writing about it isn’t going to make any difference.
2. His tight artistic vision. He made movies that tell real, poignant stories, that are visually evocative, delightfully entertaining and full of wonder. He has a complete and utter awareness of his own strengths — and, is innately in-tune with how to make his skills work–a brilliant synchronicity.
1. Perhaps the best reason of all to love Buster is that he always makes me want to be a better person. Pretty remarkable, really, for a film star. His characters are calm and accepting, living in the moment with a casual unaffected charm. I want to be like that. I may never attain it, but I can sure dream of it. . . every time I watch Keaton at his best.