Buster Keaton (Joseph Frank Keaton)

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

Legendary motion picture comic actor, writer, producer, and director of the 1910s thru 1960s. Born on October 4, 1895, in Piqua, Kansas, as Joseph Francis Keaton. The oldest son of Joseph and Myra Keaton, who were stage comedians. Buster joined his family’s act at a very young age. It soon developed into a very rough stage act, with Buster’s dad hitting him with brooms and other objects on the stage. This is where Keaton learned all his falls and stunts. He also learned to keep a straight face through any funny bits. His deadpan expression got even more laughs. Buster’s movie career began in 1917. A chance meeting with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle changed his life forever. Arbuckle had been making movie shorts with Mack Sennett and was just starting at Joseph Schenck’s studio. He asked Buster to do a scene with him in The Butcher Boy. Buster agreed and a lifelong friendship began. Buster worked with Arbuckle until 1919, when in September of that year he began making his own films. In 1920, Schenck bought out Charlie Chaplin’s old studio and let Buster have it as his studio. He gave Buster complete artistic control over his films. Buster signed a contract to make eight movies per year. He gathered a crew that would stay together until MGM took over the Keaton Studio in 1928. He made is first independent feature, Three Ages, in 1923 He had made nine more, including The General, until 1928 when he lost control to MGM. In 1921, he married his first wife, Natalie Talmadge, sister to the famous Norma and Constance Talmadge. Natalie and Buster would have 2 boys, Jimmy and Bobby. Unfortunately, their marriage would be a troubled and stormy one. Natalie spent the money as soon as Buster would earn it. She demanded new houses and new clothes and everything. By 1928, Buster had signed with MGM. He lost control over his filmmaking and went into a downward spiral with alcohol. By 1933, Buster was on his way out of MGM and was let go that year. Natalie had divorced him by this time and taken full custody of their sons, even going as far as changing their last name from Keaton to Talmadge. Buster had a complete breakdown and various stays in the hospital. It was there he met a nurse named Mae Scribbins, and in 1935, he married her. This marriage didn’t last and by the end of the decade, he was divorced again. In 1940, however, luck began to change for Buster. He met a 21-year-old MGM dancer by the name of Eleanor Norris and married her that year. Buster was 45 years old. All their friends advised against it, but they went ahead with the wedding anyway. It was the turning point in Buster’s life. Eleanor encouraged him to stop drinking and get his life back in order. By the 1950’s, Buster had made an appearance in a Chaplin film, Limelight, and been on numerous TV shows and had his own show. He was making his way back into the public eye. Buster continued working up until his death in 1966. He made several appearances in beach films and educational films. His legacy continues today and his films are being rediscovered by a new audience. He was a true comedy genius and pioneer.

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  • October, 04, 1895
  • Piqua, Kansas


  • February, 01, 1966
  • Woodland Hills, California

Cause of Death

  • lung cancer


  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park
  • Los Angeles, California

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