From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Buster Keaton (born Joseph Frank Keaton, October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American silent film comic actor and filmmaker. His trademark was physical comedy with a stoic, deadpan expression on his face, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face" (referencing the Nathaniel Hawthorne story about the "Old Man of the Mountain".
Legacy and contribution
Keaton has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: 6619 Hollywood Boulevard (for motion pictures); and 6321 Hollywood Boulevard (for television).
A 1957 film biography, The Buster Keaton Story, starred Donald O'Connor as Keaton. The screenplay was vaguely based on his life, but contained many factual errors and merged his three wives into one character. Most of the story centered on his drinking problem, in the producer's attempt to imitate the success of I'll Cry Tomorrow, a sudsy biography about another alcoholic celebrity (Lillian Roth). The 1987 documentary Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, which won 2 Emmy Awards and was directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, is considered a much more accurate telling of Keaton’s story.
Keaton's physical comedy is cited by Jackie Chan in his autobiography documentary Jackie Chan: My Story as being the primary source of inspiration for his own brand of self-deprecating physical comedy.
Keaton designed and fabricated many of his own porkpie hats during his career. In 1964, he told an interviewer that in making the porkpie he started with a good Stetson hat and cut it down, stiffening the brim with concentrated sugar water. The hats were often destroyed during Keaton's wild movie antics; some were given away as gifts and some were snatched by souvenir hunters. Keaton said he was lucky if he used only six hats in making a film. Keaton estimated that he and his wife Eleanor made thousands of the hats during his career.