The Buster Keaton Retrospective

One of my undergraduate film professors curates an on-campus educational retrospective each semester, which mainly focuses on a particular director’s oeuvre. I remember approaching him sometime in 2016 to ask if he’d be interested in doing something for BK100, and he seemed thrilled by the prospect. Once 2017 came around, I was delighted to hear that he would be organizing a retrospective for Buster during the Fall semester, and asked if I wanted to co-curate it! Naturally, I said yes.

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Buster Keaton: In the Works

Last summer, I’d vaguely hinted that I was working on a big project relating to Buster Keaton. It took me about a year to compile my research and visual notes, but after that, life got in the way. For a while, I felt pretty lost over where and how to actually begin the bulk of this project, and felt an additional sense of intimidation as this is my first crack at drawing in a format I’m not used to. However, when Lea announced her annual Buster Keaton blogathon, I thought it posed as the perfect opportunity to just get started on the thing, and now I can officially say I’m working on my own version of a Buster Keaton graphic novel.

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What Buster Keaton Taught Me

For a while, I have been under the bewitching allure of Buster Keaton and his films, and it is one spell that I feel cannot truly be broken. I have since immersed myself into every film, book, and photo I could find relating to Buster, and through it all, I’ve surprisingly learned a few things about myself. For starters, the unruly path that I faced while trying to sway among various creative fields of study weighed heavily on me for a few years, until a light started filtering through the dense overgrowth that is my mind. The things I wanted to study became clear to me because of him, and I realized that I didn’t have to give up my passions in favor of another. Rather, they formed a perfect amalgamation. Most of all, who knew that the small plucky man in the porkpie hat could be the one to help me further understand what I consider to be the deepest complexity of my life?

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Lon Chaney

Lon Chaney and I have something in common: we are both hearing children of deaf parents. In the Deaf community, we are simply referred to as CODAs, an acronym for “Children of Deaf Adults.” As a prominent actor of the Silent Era, Chaney’s upbringing is something that has somewhat-recently come to my attention and is one that keeps tugging at me for more acknowledgment. As a result, I was compelled to look more into how that might have influenced his renowned career of the silver screen.

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A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles have never failed to put me in a cheerful mood ever since I was thirteen. Eight years after that fateful day when I first listened to the Love album, they still have that same effect on me, especially when I find myself watching their first film A Hard Day’s Night. It’s actually been about two years since I last saw this movie (my younger self is distraught over this), but the timing couldn’t feel more right to watch it again: I had just finished one of my most writing-intensive semesters a couple of days ago, and was in urgent need of a pick-me-up. It wasn’t long before that distinctive opening chord rang throughout the house, and images of smiling Beatles flickered past the screen as they ran around the streets of London with a horde of exuberant fans trailing close behind.

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Doughboys

In Doughboys (1930), Buster Keaton plays Elmer Stuyvesant, a wealthy young fellow who is enamored by Mary (Sally Eilers), although she makes it clear to him that she doesn’t reciprocate these feelings. Despite the juxtaposed 1930s aesthetics, the story takes place in the World War I era, during which Elmer accidentally enlists himself into the Army. To his surprise, however, he runs into Mary, who is now visibly impressed upon seeing him in uniform. Adding to the already grueling journey into war, Elmer faces some competition with the sergeant (Edward Brophy), who also has eyes for Mary. What to do, what to do.

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