Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Short-lived Double Act of Buster Keaton and Lloyd Hamilton is Finally Revealed!
A question that was in my mind when I wrote my biography of Lloyd Hamilton was whether or not Hamilton ever socialized with Buster Keaton. Both men had a mutual drinking buddy, Lew Cody, who figured prominently into their social activities. It seemed that the men were bound to cross paths at times. I have at long last discovered an occasion in which Cody did in fact bring Hamilton and Keaton together and, even more significant, he got the two master comedians to perform a burlesque act together.
In 1926, Cody was asked to host the grand opening of the Loew's State Theater in New Orleans. He brought along funny pals Hamilton and Keaton to add levity to the event. The actors rode together by train to New Orleans. Not surprising considering the festive ways of these men, the journey turned into a longstanding party on wheels.
At the theater's opening, Cody let the crowd know that big movie stars were in attendance. He introduced Gloria Swanson, which was the cue for Hamilton to walk out on stage in drag. Next, he introduced Douglas Fairbanks. Keaton appeared at this point to perform a series of comic acrobatics. Later, while making a speech, Marcus Loew was interrupted by Hamilton and Keaton, who stormed into the gathering to sell peanuts and sheet music. Loew's publicist, Nils Granlund, playfully ordered the men to sit down. Hamilton complied by laying down on the floor and listening attentively as Loew finished his speech.
Dorothy Mason, a Ziegfeld Follies girl, noted in a report to Exhibitors Daily Review that Keaton entertained the party on the train ride home by playing the ukulele. Hamilton, she said, was "very bashful," which is something that was commonly noted by people who had observed Hamilton in social situations.
It's a shame that the comedy stars of the silent era weren't free agents who could team up for the occasional buddy comedy. It would have been great if Keaton and Hamilton could have clowned together in the same film.