Monday, March 14, 2022

Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts -- Reel Two -- March 14, 2022

Moving Picture World, 10-September-1921

This post is part of the Eighth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Lea at Silent-ology

For the first annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time in vaudeville: The 3-4-5 Keatons.
For the second annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton and the Passing Show of 1917, the show he signed for after leaving vaudeville. 
For the third annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster's transition from vaudeville to the movies, Buster Keaton: From Stage to Screen
For the fourth annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time in the US Army: Buster Keaton Goes to War
For the fifth annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time making short comedies with Roscoe Arbuckle, Comique: Roscoe, Buster, Al and Luke
For the sixth annual blogathon I wrote about Buster Keaton's First Feature: The Saphead 
For the seveth annual blogathon I wrote about Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts -- Reel One, a series of films produced during 1920-1921. Buster and his team had a very high batting average.

For the Eighth Annual Blogathon, I am writing about the Buster Keaton shorts produced for the second season, 1921-1923. Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.

I first became interested in Buster Keaton when I watched The General with my grandfather and he told me how much he had always liked Buster Keaton.

When I discovered that the Anza Branch Library had a shelf of books about movies, I found two books about Buster Keaton, Buster's memoir My Wonderful World of Slapstick and Rudi Blesh's Keaton. I read both and I enjoyed learning about his career in vaudeville and his career in the movies.

After Buster Keaton's time making short comedies with Roscoe Arbuckle and serving in the US Army during World War One, Buster appeared in a feature that he did not help direct or write, The Saphead for Metro. 

After The Saphead, Buster started making a series of  nineteen two-reel comedies (actually, he made one before The Saphead, but it would be too complicated to explain). No one ever asks me, but I tell people that this series of comedies and Charlie Chaplin's series for Mutual are the two best series of silent comedy shorts ever made.  For the Eighth Annual Blogathon, I am writing about the eleven Buster Keaton shorts produced for the second season, 1921-1929.

The movies of the first season had been released by Metro. The movies of the second season were released by First National. At this time, First National released the movies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. As this trade ad at the top of this post shows, the members of First National were proud of their new acquisition. 

Buster's distinctive makeup is one of several that he wore in "The Playhouse," the first film of the second season.

Motion Picture News, 07-May-1921

After the success of his first season of silent short comedies, Buster Keaton went to New York to sign a new contract and to marry Natalie Talmadge. Buster and Natalie were married on 31-May-1921, at her sister Norma's house.

Motion Picture News, 25-June-1921

Buster Keaton married Natalie Talmadge on 31-May-1921. Her two sisters, Norma and Constance were big stars. People direct a lot of prejudice against Natalie, but I suspect that Buster was a hard person to live with at that time. The bride and groom look thrilled.

Motion Picture News, 11-June-1921

"Until Keaton came East over a month ago he had not seen his fiancée in two years. They had corresponded frequently and he had proposed and been accepted by telegraph."

Pensacola Journal, 29-August-1921

This image does not strongly resemble Buster Keaton. I have never seen the word "gigglelouge" before. I guess it is supposed to suggest "travelogue." "Neighbors" was a short from the first season.

Lakeland Evening Telegram, 25-August-1921

The first feature film that Buster appeared in, The Saphead, was still in release. 

Bisbee Daily Review, 28-August-1921

"Buster Keaton Now One of the Leading Comedians in the U.S." It was common for newspapers to run a small new item, which may have been provided by the distributor, along with an ad for the same movie.

Indiana Daily Times, 03-August-1921

"Here is Buster." This is the first item I have found mentioning that First National would distribute Buster's movies.

Moscow, Idaho Daily Star-Mirror, 15-August-1921

"Sober Faced Comedian Buster Keaton to Appear." "The Haunted House" was a film from the first season.

Moving Picture World, 10-September-1921

"The Playhouse" was Buster's first production of his second season in 1921-1922. Buster and Eddie Cline directed all the movies from the second season. 

"The Playhouse" starts with an extended dream sequence where Buster plays the cast, the orchestra and the audience of a vaudeville show.

Moving Picture World, 03-September-1921

Buster was busy producing more movies.

Moving Picture World, 17-September-1921

The members of the Rotary Club of Bridgeport, Connecticut were treated to a pre-release showing of Buster and Chaplin's next movies. Buster's could have been "The Playhouse." Chaplin's could have been "The Idle Class."

Exhibitors Herald, 10-September-1921

"The Village Blacksmith" was released as "The Blacksmith." It would be the sixth item released in the second series.

Exhibitors Herald, 17-September-1921

Americus Times-Recorder, 29-September-1921

Moving Picture World, 01-October-1921

First National was fond of this image of Buster Keaton in makeup for "The Playhouse." "Don't Let Anyone Make a Monkey Out of You!"

Exhibitors Herald, 08-October-1921

"There's a Lot of Monkey Business!"

Moving Picture World, 22-October-1921

"It's a Great Life and a Gay One!" The meanings of some words change over time.

Exhibitors Herald, 08-October-1921

Buster played other roles besides the monkey in "The Playhouse."

Motion Picture News, 05-November-1921

"The Playhouse" received equal billing with the feature on this bill. "A hilarious comedy." The image does not do justice to Buster.

Motion Picture News, 21-January-1922

Exhibitors Herald, 11-February-1922

"The Playhouse" got good reviews in San Francisco newspapers.
Motion Picture News, 18-February-1921

Meanwhile, Buster had finished the Second film in the second series, and it was one of his best, "The Boat."

Bemidji Daily Pioneer, 07-October-1921

"The Scarecrow" was part of the first series of Buster Keaton Comedies. 

Moving Picture World, 12-November-1921

First National was promoting Buster's comedies heavily. "Oh! What a joy ride!" "The Boat" is one of the all-time absolute unquestionable best silent comedy shorts of all time. If you don't agree, I feel sorry for you.

Washington Times, 15-November-1921

I like this blurb for "The Boat." "The King of Drollery at His Unsmiling Best in the Funniest Two-Reel Shriek Ever Shown on a Screen." 

The career of top-billed Charles Ray was about to take a turn for the worse. 

Exhibitors Herald, 26-November-1921

"There's Gales of Laughter When the Waves Roll High."

Exhibitors Herald, 05-November-1921

"Sit Tight! Don't Rock the Boat!"

Motion Picture Magazine, February, 1922

"Buster Keaton in the funniest comedy he ever did make." They may be right. 

Motion Picture News, 25-February-1921

Casper Daily Tribune, 10-December-1921

"It is the Best Stimulant We Can Give to 'Come Out of It'." "Come Out of It" may refer to the lingering post-war economic recession. 

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

The radio gear plays an important part in a major gag. 

Exhibitors Herald, 21-January-1922

"Take a Peek Through the Port Hole in His New Comedy Series."

Exhibitors Herald, 21-January-1922

This item cleverly gives away most of the surprises in the film.

"Cops" would be another one of Buster's best. 

Exhibitors Herald, 11-February-1922

Buster Keaton in "The Paleface." Note that Buster has "gone native" as Little Chief Paleface, but he is wearing socks with garters.

Great Falls Tribune, 01-January-1922

"Keaton's Latest Mirthquake."

Exhibitors Herald, 11-March-1922

This trade ad touts the first three films in the second season.

Moving Picture World, 04-March-1922

"Buster Keaton as the Heap Big Injun." Please excuse the racism.

Moving Picture World, 18-March-1922

"Any Show is a Good Show if Keaton Heads the Bill."

Moving Picture World, 14-January-1922

"Cops," the third film in the series, was another great one. 

Moving Picture Weekly, 24-March-1922

Motion Picture News, 29-April-1922

Motion Picture News, 18-March-1922

"My Wife's Relations" would be the fourth film in the series. The snow scenes at Lake Tahoe must have been for "The Frozen North," the seventh release in the series.

Motion Picture News, 29-April-1922

Motion Picture News, 27-May-1922

"Buster Keaton in 2-reel comedies that always play as features."

Motion Picture News, 24-June-1922

And with that, I will stop for the present. A combination of appendicitis, a new job and taking care of an elderly relative forces me to put off the rest of season two until next year.

Silver Screen, 30-March-1922

"The Frozen Face Comedian." An interesting drawing of Buster.

This post is part of the Eighth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Lea at Silent-ology. Thank you to Lea for all the hard work. I think it is wonderful that this blogathon has reached an eighth year. Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can. Bloggers love comments.


  1. What a great collection of Buster Keaton's material, seeing it makes it all more relatable and real.

    1. Hi Elisabeth. I'm happy you found it helpful. I could spend all day every day digging through old newspapers and magazines.

  2. Wow, thank you so much for this contribution Joe! I know it was a lot of work and it's very appreciated. Some of these clippings are new to me, that final Silver Screen illustration is amazing. Even has Expressionist touches, it seems to me.

    1. Hi Lea. You are welcome and thank you for putting together another Buster Keaton Blogathon. I'm glad you liked that last image. I find it haunting. Today I finally have time to read the other posts.

  3. Wow – this is a wealth of Buster K. material. Thanks so much for compiling this.

    As the previous commented said, it really makes it more real.

    P.S. Best wishes for the surgery, the new job, and the caregiving.

    1. Thank you, Silver Screenings. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the best wishes. The incision is healing; teaching grades K-4 about coding, all in one day is a challenge, but I am enjoying it; there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the caregiving.


Comment moderation is turned on. Your message will appear after it has been reviewed.