Chronology

A Timeline of Events, both personal and professional, in Keaton’s life

[this is a work in progress. your patience or assistance is appreciated]

10/4/1895 Born Joseph Frank Keaton in Piqua Kansas to Joe and Myra Keaton. The family was just passing through while performing.
Oct 1900 Buster joins the family’s Vaudeville act “The Three Keatons” and performs with his parents throughout his childhood.
1913 The Three Keatons are popular enough that William Randolph Hearst approaches them about staring in a film based on a comic strip called “Bringing up Father.” Joe declined.
Mar-17 About to embark on lucrative solo stage deal, Keaton fortuitously meets Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, goes to Arbuckle’s NY studio to see the movie process, falls in love with it, and is given a part in The Butcher Boy.
1917 Begins making films with Arbuckle for Joe Schenck and a company called Comique.
7/24/18 Enlists? Drafted? Assigned to military company and headed to service in WWI
4/29/19 Is discharged from service; comes back to a different world – with the film industry now centered in California and big money in the making.
1919 Continues to make short films with Fatty until Fatty chooses to move on to another studio.
12/23/19 Signs a contract with Schenck to make his own independent films, taking over the production company that Arbuckle left
Jan-20 Takes over Keaton Studios at 1025 Lillian Way in Los Angeles and begins making independent short comedies
5/31/21 Marries Natalie Talmadge
9/5/21 Fatty attends fateful big party in San Francisco at which he is accused of assault; Keaton was not in attendance
4/12/22 Fatty is acquitted
6/2/22 Joseph Keaton (Buster Keaton Jr.) born
1923 Buster begins making independent feature-length pictures
10/23/23 Constant supporting player in his films, Big Joe Roberts dies.
11/19/23 Our Hospitality released — Buster and Natalie appearing in it together with their baby
2/3/24 Robert Keaton born – followed by declaration from Talmadge women that Buster needed to move into his own bedroom (i.e. marriage already on the skids)
4/21/24 Sherlock Jr. is released
1925 Buster continues to release profoundly good feature films, some very popular, but not always well-received
9/4/27 Filming of the famous falling house-front scene; it is widely reported that Keaton, prior to filming that dangerous stunt, had just been informed that his studio would be closing. This would be the last picture he filmed for his independent studio
10/6/27 The Jazz Singer is released, bringing with it the onset of a transition to talkies
1/26/28 Buster signs on with MGM as Schenck closes his studio
5/20/28 The release of Steamboat Bill Jr.
9/22/28 Release of The Cameraman, Keaton’s first picture for MGM, to great acclaim; maybe his last great creative effort with full control
10/24/29 The stock market crashed and the nation entered the great depression
1929 The switch from silents to talkies in Hollywood in full swing; generally speaking, films being released in this transitional era (1929 – 1931) are weak; Buster’s are no exception. His career became a mess for a variety of reasons, but the mess is by no means confined to Keaton — all of the nation and Hollywood is going through a major re-sorting
1930 Studio system is choking out Keaton’s creativity while marriage problems continue to escalate
Apr-32 Marital problems, particularly over parenting, reached a peak
8/8/32 Buster divorces Natalie; she gets everything without a fight, including the kids
? Buster begins problematic drinking? Or drinking problem intensified?
1/8/33 In an odd twist of events, Buster marries Mae Scriven on accident
2/2/33 Buster is fired from MGM
4/29/33 Fatty Arbuckle dies of a heart attack
1934 Natalie Talmadge changes boys’ last name from Keaton to Talmadge
1934 Keaton begins making short comedies for a small film company called “Educational Pictures”
Oct-35 Scriven files for divorce; Buster hospitalized for exhaustion? Flu? Breakdown?; Buster stops drinking and begins a slow road to professional and personal recovery
1936-7 Continues making films for Educational Pictures, now sober
1938 Stops making films for Educational Pictures and begins to work back at MGM, this time as a relatively low paid “gag man”
Dec-38 Begins doing work for Columbia Pictures
1940 Marries Eleanor Norris – and continues a happy relationship he would enjoy until the end of his life
1947 Appears with Eleanor in Paris in stage show Cirque Medrano (thru 1954) to audience delight and praise
1949 Appears in a small role in In the Good Ol Summertime with Judy Garland, also writing/directing a sequence in that film
9/5/49 Life Magazine features “Comedy’s Greatest Era” – an article by James Agee with deep praise of Buster’s talent and starts a career resurgence in earnest
12/22/49 Buster appears on television in The Buster Keaton Show in front of a live audience clearly enchanted by what he is doing
1950 Keaton plays himself in a cameo in Sunset Boulevard
1953 Appears in a cameo with Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin’s film Limelight (their only movie together)
1957 Keaton is the subject of an on-air biography/reunion show, This is Your Life; his siblings, wife, children and other figures from his past appear with him
1959 Receives an honorary Oscar for his “unique talents which brought immortal comedies to the screen.”
1965 Makes Buster Keaton Rides Again, documentary filmed  during production of short silent comedy starring Keaton, The Railrodder.
2/1/66 Buster Keaton dies in California
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