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Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hatby Edward Mcpherson
Synopses & Reviews
Edward McPherson traces Buster Keaton's career from his early days in vaudeville--where as a rambunctious five-year-old his father threw him around the stage--to his becoming one of the brightest stars of silent film's Golden Age. Taking what he knew from vaudeville--ingenuity, athleticism, audacity and wit--Keaton applied his hand to the new medium of film, proving himself a prodigious acrobat and brilliant writer, gagman, director and actor in more than 100 films. Between 1920 and 1929, he rivaled Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, and even Charlie Chaplin as the master of silent comedy by writing, directing, and starring in more than 30 films. The book celebrates Keaton in his prime--as an antic genius, equal parts auteur, innovator, prankster and daredevil--while also revealing the pressures in his personal and professional life that led to a collapse into drunkenness and despair before his triumphant second act as a television pioneer and Hollywood player in everything from beach movies to Beckett. McPherson describes the life of Keaton--in front of the camera and behind the scenes--with the kind of exuberance and narrative energy displayed by the shrewd, madcap films themselves.
"McPherson pays homage to Keaton's two-reelers and full-length movies by detailing the iconic filmmaker's plot lines and notable sight gags. Between 1920 and 1929, Keaton rivaled Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin as one of Hollywood's silent masters. Grabbing his title from Keaton's signature porkpie hat, McPherson, who's written for I.D. magazine and the New York Observer, has culled the narrative of the star's personal and professional life from earlier biographical works. His contribution is to adroitly describe the extraordinary visual lunacy Keaton produced on screen to achieve cinema art. Responsible for writing, acting, editing and directing, Keaton took what he knew — 'the ingenuity, athleticism, and wit of vaudeville — and applied it to a burgeoning medium.' On-screen physical catastrophes were his trademark, though many of his most treasured films, such as The General, were not initially well received. McPherson also remarks on Keaton's disastrous marriage to Natalie Talmadge (her sister, Norma, was a major star), his adjustment to talkies and his descent into alcoholism, a demon he battled for decades. In his prime, Keaton lived a life of luxury, but he paid for his excesses. When his films lost favor, he was reduced to taking studio day jobs. Yet he saw his silent classics reissued and achieved happiness with his third wife, a sunny ending for this loving tribute. 40 b&w photos. FYI: The book was published in the U.K. last year by Faber & Faber." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
In this biography introducing comic genius Keaton (1895-1966) to a new generation, a New York-based fan traces Keaton's career from his vaudeville days to fame as the actor-director of such silent classics as The General (1926). McPherson, who watched some 60 of Keaton's films as part of his research, also discusses the star's personal ups and downs but not much about his legacy. The book, whose title refers to Keaton's signature porkpie hat, includes photos and reference material.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This appreciative biography that rolls as smoothly as a film reel (Cleveland Plain Dealer) celebrates one of cinemas greatest clowns, painting a detailed portrait of the man behind the mayhem and offering a fresh look at the classic comedies that defined the Golden Age of Silent Film.
Writer—and avowed fan—Edward McPherson takes the reader on a fascinating journey through Buster Keatons life and times, from the vaudeville stage to the glittering screens of early Hollywood, where he rivaled even Charlie Chaplin as the master of silent comedy.
Based on extensive research, this biography reveals Keaton in his prime as an antic genius—equal parts auteur, innovator, prankster, and daredevil—focusing on his glorious 1920s films, which McPherson evokes with insight and enthusiasm (Washington Post Book World).
First U.S. publication of the new, acclaimed biography capturing the life and times of one of cinema's great clowns and the Golden Age of Silent Film, from vaudeville to over 100 films. Celebrating Keaton in his prime, this book also reveals the pressures in his personal and professional life that led to a collapse into despair before his triumphant comeback as television pioneer.
About the Author
Edward McPherson has contributed to such publications as the New York Times Magazine, New York Observer, I.D., Esopus, Absolute, and Talk. Originally from Texas, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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