Buster Keaton; “The Great Stone Face”


The aftermath of Keaton’s most iconic stunt involving the frame of a house falling as he stays safe by standing in the path of an open window. Photo by: Charles Reisner.

In honor of his one hundred twenty-sixth birthday, Buster Keaton deserves some recognition. In the world of movies and television, we have people who have made timeless impacts. We have directors like Hayao Miyazaki or Walt Disney and music composers like Alan Menken and Stephen Swartz. But, we also have actors, like “Buster” Keaton. 


Joseph Frank Kenton, better known as “Buster” Keaton, was responsible for almost all modern stunts and gags we see in movies today. He got the nickname “Buster” after a tumble down the stairs unbothered when he was six months old. And from there, he made history. 


Born on Oct. 4, 1895, he was trained in vaudeville shows with his family, being thrown downstairs and out of windows for years from a very young age. He trained himself to fall and came out unharmed. He did get harmed at times, but some of his major injuries went unnoticed for a long time. For example, his neck broke in a stunt involving a water tower. He went 30 years without knowing it. Keaton was well known for his dead-pan humor, nicknamed “The Great Stone Face,”  never seen smiling.


Many directors state that they took direct inspiration from Keaton for their movies. Keaton was the inspiration for the infamous bullet dodge from “The Matrix” and the hallway fight scene from “Inception.” His work is still around in recent years, with him running towards the camera. It then cuts to the side at the last second. This can be seen in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” as well as in the works of Wes Anderson and his acrobatics in the Jackie Chan movies. 


Keaton had a lot to do with the clichés we see today. He risked his life multiple times on screen doing his stunts to make people laugh; Jumping on trains, falling from buildings and getting hit by falling house walls. So even as we see directors and animators use his tricks in recent years, Keaton did it better a hundred years ago.