Recommended Reading

"Buster Keaton's Crew: The Team Behind His Silent Films"

Lisle Foote (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers - 2014. 312 pages)

I'm one of those people who actually does read the credits on a silent film. Many of the stars had cameramen, set designers, gag writers, title writers, scenarists and others they liked and used over and over again. Buster Keaton was one of those who had his "crew" who did so much behind the scenes to add to his success, so he used them on a regular basis. Finally, someone has given just credit to these "men behinid the camera" with the publication of "Buster Keatons's Crew" by Lisle Foote. The book contains over 40 mini-biographies of these very important contributors to silent movie lore -- names that you will recognize like Eddie Cline, Donald Crisp, Malcolm St. Clair, Edward Segwick, Clyde Bruckman, and Jean Havez, among others. But there are also many others whom you may not recognize so readily -- Wayne "Denver" Harmon, William Piltz, Tommy Gray, Lew Lipton, J. Sherman Kell, and on and on. Again, you'll find the little known such as Bert Haines who was assistant cameraman on "Battling Butler," "The General," "Go West," "College" and "Steamboat Bill, Jr." He was also one of the strongest players on Keaton's baseball team and actually broke his arm while playing a game during the filming of "The General." And of course there are the familiar names such as Clyde Bruckman and his all too sad story. One of the most brilliant gag men in the silent era, he wrote for both Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Although he continued to write into the television era, his life was beset with troubles, and he committed suicide in 1955. There are too many stories to recount here, of course, but suffice it to say this book contains a wealth of information and gives far greater insight into Keaton's career than you'll find in any of his biographies. The bios are logically divided into sections for "The Camera and Electrical Departments," "Co-Directors," "Writers," and "The Rest of the Crew," with the welcome addition of a chapter entitled "Arbuckle's Crew" that includes four bios. Although most will likely skip around to names you may want to read first, the reader may also find that this book is difficult to put down once you've started reading the first one. By the way, each bio ends with a listing of census informatino that the reader will also find interesting and useful. You can't be a Keaton fan and not have this book on your shelf!

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