George Eastman Museum has just shared the sound file of an extensive interview with Buster Keaton from 1958. A few snippets of this found their way into the documentary A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW, but this is the first time the complete audio has been available, allowing us to eavesdrop on the conversation.
Like other Keaton interviews, it starts out a little slow, but Buster always warms up after a few minutes. This one is an hour and a half in length, and after a few familiar repeated stories, Buster really loosens up and it turns into a great conversation. With a lot of these interviews, I find myself wishing the interviewer had done a bit more research or asked better questions. This time round, the interviewer really has his facts right and is clearly a fan. He’s clued up on the details of Keaton’s career and manages to tip into some nooks and crannies not covered elsewhere.
Some highlights include:
* Buster’s memories of his classic shorts like THE PLAYHOUSE, THE ELECTRIC HOUSE, THE FROZEN NORTH and THE BOAT. (It’s especially fascinating to hear that he considered THE BOAT to be the sequel to ONE WEEK, and even considered editing them together as a feature!).
*His work with Arbuckle, and his fondness for the short THE GARAGE.
*Details of an unfinished script idea that would have seen Buster in Harold Lloyd territory, stranded on top of a skyscraper with his girl.
*His thoughts on keeping spontaneity in films
*Shooting the illusions in SHERLOCK JR and re-enacting them on Ed Sullivan’s TV show (does this still exist?)
*Details of the leading ladies in his short films
*Filming on location for THE NAVIGATOR, GO WEST and THE GENERAL.
*An even-handed account of his time at MGM. Interestingly, apart from SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (“the world’s worst picture!”), he describes all the other pictures there as “good or fair” (even WHAT! NO BEER?).
*Working with Chaplin in LIMELIGHT.
All in all, this is a great immersion into Buster’s world. His career is covered in detail, and it’s wonderful to hear that characterful, gravelly voice telling these stories with real warmth and humour. What wouldn’t you give to have been a fly on the wall..? Take a listen below.
PS. Here’s another Keaton interview (this time with video as well) I posted a while ago: https://thelostlaugh.com/2018/03/22/keaton-in-conversation/