Monday, March 13, 2023

Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts -- Reel Two and a Half -- March 13, 2023

Film Daily, 11-June-1922

This post is part of the Ninth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Lea at Silent-ology. It is amazingly impressive to me to see a blogathon go on for nine years. 

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 started to write about the Buster Keaton shorts produced for the second season, 1921-1923. Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts -- Reel Two
For the ninth annual blogathon, I have written about the rest of the Buster Keaton shorts produced for the second season, 1921-1923. Last year I was interrupted by appendicitis. 

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 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 Ninth Annual Blogathon, I am continuing to write 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. 

Moving Picture World, 05-August-1922

Last year I left off with a mention of "The Blacksmith." Here are some images from "The Blacksmith." Buster's leading lady was Virginia Fox.

Moving Picture World, 23-September-1922

GR Stewart, manager of the Iris and America Theaters in Casper, Wyoming, promoted Buster's short comedy, "The Blacksmith" with an animated figure. Some poor kid had the job of moving the cut-out's right arm to hit the anvil.

Casper Daily Tribune, 14-August-1922

Note that "The Blacksmith" is advertised above the feature film, and that Buster's name is in the largest type.

Moving Picture World, 22-July-1922

The title of this trade ad for "The Blacksmith" misspells Keaton's name.

Moving Picture World, 07-October-1922

In "The Frozen North," Buster parodied stone faced, steely eyed western star William S Hart. Hart was not amused. 

Snow scenes were shot at Truckee, in the Sierras near Lake Tahoe. 

Motion Picture News, 19-March-1921

In 1921, Hart had made O'Malley of the Mounted, a movie about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Photoplay, October, 1922

First National was happy with the results of releasing Buster's second season of comedy short films.

Moving Picture World, 27-May-1922

Buster was injured several times on the set of "The Electric House." The first time they tried to film the story in 1920, Buster broke his ankle on the escalator. He gave up and started over, scrapping the footage from 1920.

Motion Picture News, 04-November-1922

Buster had an electric train that ran from the kitchen to the dining room in his own house. 

Motion Picture News, 24-February-1923

"They'll Never Want to Wake Up" is a scary tag line. 

When I first started reading about silent comedy, Buster Keaton's "Day Dreams" was considered a lost film. Later, people digging around found most of the movie, but some scenes are still missing. Eddie Cline and Buster directed.

Moving Picture World, 02-September-1922

"Day Dreams" has some dark elements. When Buster asks his girl's father, played by Buster's father Joe, permission to marry her, the father asks "How will you support her?" Virginia Fox is mentioned in this item, but the girl was played by Renée Adorée, who would soon become a major star.

Buster promises that he will go the city and find success. If not, he will come back and commit suicide. 

In the city, Buster fails as a veterinary assistant, a street sweeper, and a member of the chorus in a musical. He fails everything and winds up being chased by lots of cops. 

"Day Dreams" has special meaning for me because it was partly shot in San Francisco and includes a scene shot on the Powell/Mason cable car line. Cable cars are the subject of my monomania. Above we see Buster waiting to hop on a Powell-Mason cable car on Columbus Avenue. The cable car's dark green paint renders it difficult to see Buster. 

In this screenshot, we see Buster sitting on the front bench of a Powell Street cable car while it rotates on the turntable at Bay and Taylor Streets. 

Watch the movie to see what happens when Buster returns to his girl's house.

Motion Picture News, 02-September-1922

Joe Schenk, Buster's brother-in-law had great plans for Buster and for the sisters of Buster's wife Natalie, Norma and Constance Talmadge.

Motion Picture News, 24-February-1923

"The Balloonatic" (great name) may have been the first of Buster's silent short films that I saw. The San Francisco Main Library used to show films one day a week at lunchtime.

Motion Picture News, 24-February-1923

"Buster Keaton rises to great heights..." Ha ha. 

Motion Picture News, 22-June-1923

"Keaton Steals the Show!"

Motion Picture News, 05-May-1923

Buster's short comedies were popular all over the world. 

Motion Picture News, 12-May-1923

"The Love Nest" was Buster's last silent short. Buster's last talkie short film for Educational, released in 1937, was "Love Nest on Wheels." No relation.

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1923

This still shows a nice contrast between the size of Buster and the size of his frequent nemesis, Big Joe Roberts. 

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1923

"Buster Keaton had so much fun and furnished so much amusement in a comedy about a boat on the high seas, shown some time ago, that he has evidently attempted to provide a sequel."

Ridgewood Herald-News, 11-January-1923

After completing his second season of short films Buster Keaton took a three-month vacation. On his return, he started working on a feature.

Motion Picture News, 03-February-1923

Metro, which had released Buster's first season of silent comedies, wanted to distribute the first feature in which he had creative control, The Three Ages.

Motion Picture News, 16-June-1923

Photoplay, October, 1922

Journalist Adela Rogers St Johns interviewed Buster Keaton's son Joseph, who must have been three or four months old. He didn't have much to say. She said that neither Buster nor the little guy had ever been photographed smiling.

Moving Picture World, 20-May-1922

A boyhood photograph of Buster smiling.  "The First and Only Time He Was Caught Smiling." Not true, but funny.

This post is part of the Ninth 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 a ninth 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. Thanks for contributing to the blogathon again Joe, I always enjoy your entries! You dig up so many great ads and clippings. That last photo of Buster smiling--it's interesting how short people's memories were, considering the Arbuckle comedies came out just a few years prior and Buster's smiling all over those. Perhaps, this being during the Arbuckle trial period, it also wasn't prudent to talk about his comedies much.

    1. Hi Lea. I'm very happy to be able to contribute. Thank you for keeping this blogathon alive for such a long time. You are probably right about people forgetting the Arbuckle comedies. They weren't revived much at this point.

  2. Replies
    1. I thought Buster had a great smile, but it still seems funny to see him smiling.


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