Biographies of Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton, Charles Samuels, My Wonderful World of Slapstick (USA: De Capo Press, 1982). Easily the most personal account of the silent film star, this indispensable book was co-written by Keaton himself. While it's not the most objective source - Keaton's memory or interpretation of certain events is rather unclear - it's an enjoyable and well-written memoir; offering some key facts and recollections. He delves quite a bit into his family life, dispelling some rumours and ruminating at length about his early years in the family vaudeville act (wherein he would perform the dangerous and creative stunts that became his trademark). From his later association with fellow silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, through to his breakthrough as a leading man in early Hollywood, the book covers some fertile ground. It is, however, frustratingly brief - only touching the surface. Keaton glosses over the troubles he faced (such as his broken first marriage, or his clinical depression), making the book incomplete. My Wonderful World of Slapstick is most notable for providing an insight into Keaton's creative process - the formation of a visual gag for instance - and the writing makes his voice clear. We are given the impression that Keaton was a man without pretension, and his sense of humour remained intact toward the end of his life. While the lack of focus on his key films disappointed many critics, the book represents his only recorded memoir.
Eleanor Keaton, Jeffrey Vance, Buster Keaton Remembered (USA: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2001). Equally personal, due to the involvement of his widow Eleanor, Buster Keaton Remembered traces his career and background in more depth. Detailing his rise from two-reel cheapies to full-length features, the book is largely concerned with Buster the man, rather than Buster the star. Keaton and Vance cover the basics, such as his eventual acceptance by audiences who loved his films for their pioneering stunt work, and his times of hardship. Naturally, due to Eleanor's input, the information is rarely technical; relying on anecdotal material. Still, such primary research is valuable giving us the impression that Keaton was a shy, humble man that faced the typical challenges of the period, while pushing the boundaries of screen acrobatics. Unsurprisingly, the book sums up the late star as an influential icon of American cinema.
Tom Dardis, Buster Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down (USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). Another notable biography, Dardis documents the rise and eventual fall of Keaton; providing many of the key details familiar to other texts on the star. What makes this book worthwhile however, is the author's acknowledgment of the actor's troubled history. His later years living in virtual obscurity and his descent into alcoholism, are both covered; having found it hard to maintain a hold in the industry. A valid insight into the studio system also gives...