Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

Back in the 90s I got into silent films. I would send off for VHS tapes of 1920s classics. The one actress I wanted to see was Clara Bow. After reading about her I started to learn more about Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I did know of Chaplin but had never seen one of his films. I still love silent cinema from that era.

Charlie and Buster were two of the best screen comedians ever to walk the earth. They both had similar upbringings. Buster and his family in American vaudeville. Charlie worked in British music halls. Charlie rose to stardom in silent movies in the 1910’s beginning with Keystone, Mutual (where he made his best short comedies) Essanay and then he confounded United Artist with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and W. D. Griffith. After that Charlie went into full feature films.

Buster started silent shorts in 1917 with Roscoe Arbuckle. After Roscoe broke out on his own so did Buster….he did some more short films which were brilliant. He then went into full features. Buster was just so different than anyone else. He was so still while the world moved into chaos around him. He was a brilliant actor-director and also writer which he often didn’t take credit for doing. If Buster would have just made “The General” his place in film history would be cemented. The same can be said of Charlie Chaplin and his masterpiece “The Gold Rush.”

There was no competition between the two in popularity. Charlie won hands down over Buster and probably everyone else in comedy and drama. His character “The Tramp” was internationally loved. All in all, I’ve always thought Keaton was a better filmmaker but Chaplin the better character. The most recognized character in movie history.  They were two different comedians. Chaplin would reach for pathos…sometimes a little too much. Keaton seemed much more real.

Keaton’s sight gags were incredible and sometimes dangerous to his health…like have a front of a building that weighed a ton (so it wouldn’t twist in the wind) fall on him with the upstairs opening clearing him around 2 inches on each side. He never smiled because it would have ruined his character. Both are worth watching and with Keaton’s films like Sherlock Jr…you wonder how he did some of the things he did with the primitive camera’s they used.

Both were funny men. The other big comedian was Harold Lloyd but he was more of an actor playing a comedian….he was really successful though… second to Chaplin in making money.

Charlie and Buster older both appear in Charlie’s Limelight. This is the only time they ever appeared together in a movie.


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

29 thoughts on “Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton”

  1. I’ve always preferred Keaton slightly over Chaplin (although both are no doubt amazing) due to his facial reactions. I’ll have to check out that “Charlie’s Limelight” film though. The two of them in a movie together is like (although this reference is a bit dated) Pacino and DeNiro together. It was kind of the entire selling point of “Heat” which really wasn’t that great of a film. I think they did it again in the 2000’s, but I can’t remember the title now and nobody watched it anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve preferred Keaton as well…slightly. His sight gags were real and not faked by camera cuts. I thought he was a superb film maker.

      I always thought Keaton was ahead of the curve…like The General and for that reason didn’t get noticed as much…I like the Pacino and DeNiro comparison.


  2. Interesting piece. Charlie Chaplin is instantly identifiable, whereas Keaton, I recognize his name of course but might not have known who he was if just shown a photo of him. AMazing to think they did their own stunts like that back then – that house front falling around him. Man, a lot could have gone wrong there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea…the director held his hands over his eyes when the shot happened. It could have driven him in the ground like a tent peg.
      From what I read that was when he found out that he would have to make movies for MGM…and not be independent anymore…he wasn’t happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Buster Keaton was in a lot of commercials, mostly for beer, in the ’50’s, and yes. the sight gags were tremendous and he was perfect for them.

    There was a period where his studio decided he wasn’t funny enough, so they paired him with Jimmy Durante. It didn’t go well.

    Keaton was also funny in “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” with Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers. I think it was his last film appearance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea you can’t partner him with someone like that…I’ve seen What No Beer…not among Buster’s best.
      I’ve seen some of those commercials…Harpo was in some cool commercials also…surreal ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The quality of those movies…not the shorts but the full length movies are gorgeous…they had some great camera guys.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember watching the movies you reviewed (The General with Keaton and Modern Times with Chaplin) and loving both of them. They have provided so many laughs and gasps to audiences over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think people have the misconception that all of those movies were too fast and scratchy looking… They are as clear as you can get. Glad you liked them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I watched some Charlie Chaplin silent movies as well, but it all happened way back when I was still a child back in Germany – probably something like 40 years ago. As such, my memories are nebulous at best.

    Jeez, oftentimes, I can’t remember what I did the previous day. And, nope, it’s not because of controlled substances – I don’t do them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is something that silent movies do…they transcend language barriers. Every country can understand.
      LOL….sometimes I wish I could do them!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes….I can’t believe Chaplin invited him…they were ok friends but that was Chaplin’s rival…it’s cool that he did it though.

        Liked by 2 people

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