This study of Buster Keaton's 19 silent short films shot between 1920 and 1923 chronicles the rapid growth in the film-maker's understanding of what makes both comedy and film successful. Keaton developed his major themes in these 19 short films: his persona ""Buster"" versus Rival, Nature, Machine, Self and Fate; his resilient pursuit of love and the efforts he makes to overcome any curves thrown by Fate; and his trademark ""stone face"" blocking any display of the passionate emotion he feels about everything he does. 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 films in such a way as 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 film-maker.
Gabriella Oldham is the author "of First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors "and the children s musical "Melville and the Yellow Umbrella. "She is also the artistic director for the New York Children s Theatre."