Friday, March 27, 2009

Being Keaton

On a recent episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Bill Paxton gave host Fallon an original edition of Rudi Blesh's biography of Buster Keaton. Paxton explained that he had long believed that Fallon looked like Keaton. The picture that appears below was put up on screen alongside Fallon.

I was happy to see the Blesh book. The book, sealed in plastic, looked brand new. It looked exactly like the copy I purchased thirty-five years ago. If my memory serves me well, this was the first book I ever read about silent comedy. It was, without a doubt, a poignant book. Keaton, as described by Blesh, was comedy's great martyr. The photo on the cover said it all - it made Keaton look as agonized as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's no wonder that Keaton has never been able to shed the "sad clown" image.

The other Keaton biographies that followed pointed out inaccuracies in the book. In Blesh's defense, he could only be as accurate as his sources. Keaton, himself, told Blesh things that weren't true. It was a big disappointment to me to learn that Keaton had not, in fact, been carried off by a twister as a child. As it turns out, this story was the invention of a publicist.

Not long ago, another former SNL star, Chris Kattan, was hired to play Keaton in a feature film by Argus Entertainment, but the project was eventually abandoned because the producers failed to find adequate funding. If you want my opinion, they would be better off if they just made a movie where Chris Kattan got to play Jimmy Fallon.

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