May 29 2014
Written By
Josey Orr
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Buster Keaton, Pork Pie Hats, and Jazz

Typically, when we think of silent films, we think of only one man; Charlie Chaplin. However, one night last week I was up pretty late watching the clock tick and in an effort to distract myself, I went on Tumblr. There I came across an interesting character that most people have never heard of. The man was a silent movie actor by the name of Buster Keaton.

What I found to be remarkable about Buster was that he was doing all of his own stunts, some of which are pretty intense. I guess they had to be because they are silent films, so the visual aspects of film had to be pretty awesome. So, having caught my eye, I investigated the matter a little bit further and it turns out this fella was really interesting. Here are some fun facts:

- Harry Houdini watched him fall down a flight of stairs as a child and get up unscathed. After having seen this, Houdini remarked, “That’s a real buster!”. That's how he got his name.

- He lost the tip of his finger in a wash ringer when he was a child.

- He served in World War 1

- While filming Sherlock Jr. HE SNAPPED HIS NECK on the railroad tracks AND he didn’t realize it was broken until an examination years later. Here’s the clip:

Ol' Buster made a name for himself in the 1920’s starring in films like “The General”, “Sherlock Jr.”, and “Our Hosptitality”. Unfortunately, toward the end of the 20’s, a new form of acting came along and the actors were called “the talkies”. When people began talking in films, Busters career became a downward spiral. He suffered from depression and alcoholism and disappeared from the limelight for a while. Then, in 1957, Buster appeared with Charles Chaplin in Limelight (1952) and his film biography, The Buster Keaton Story (1957), was released. Finally, he received an honorary Oscar for his life work in comedy, and he began to receive the accolades he deserved, with festivals around the world acknowledging his work. He died in 1966, at the age of 70, of lung cancer.

He also left us with a fashion item that has been mostly forgotten; the Pork Pie Hat.


The hat also reminds me of a song called “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by the amazingly talented Jazz Artist Charles Mingus.


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