cover of book

Keaton's Silent Shorts: Beyond the Laughter
by Gabriella Oldham
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996
Cloth: 978-0-8093-1951-0 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-8594-2 | Paper: 978-0-8093-3002-7
Library of Congress Classification PN2287.K4O48 2010
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.430280972


Filling a major gap in the critical canon, Keaton’s Classic Shorts: Beyond the Laughter chronicles the rapid growth in the filmmaker’s understanding of what makes both comedy and film successful. Keaton developed his major themes in these nineteen silent short films shot between 1920 and 1923, creating his persona “Buster” with his trademark stone face. These short films clearly indicate Keaton’s love of the camera and his concern for composition, symmetry, and images that delight the eye and startle the mind.

Oldham reconstructs each of these rarely seen films to enable the reader to “watch” Keaton’s performance, devoting a separate chapter to each. She analyzes each film’s strengths, weaknesses, and prevalent themes and threads. She also enables readers to plumb the depths of what seems to be surface comedy through philosophical, biographical, historical, and critical commentary, thus linking the shorts together into a cohesive study of Buster Keaton’s growth through his three-year independent venture as a filmmaker. Beyond the laughter and beyond the great stone face, Oldham presents a treasure of cinema comedy and a unique philosophy of life as captured by a great filmmaker.

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