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Buster Keaton (1895-1966)

  1. Lionel Barrymore, Grand Hotel, 1931.    Yes, really!   Director Edmund Goulding wanted Buster as the dying baron making his last days as rich and joyous as possible. Could Buster act seriously? Ah, he said, you haven’t seen my films - by the fourth reel I’m always very serious.  Metro’s production genius, Irving Thalberg, did not agree and made Barrymore  the baron. “He was very good,” said Keaton.  “But I would have played it in a different way.”  Buster threatened a send-up, Grand Mills Hotel, in the Bowery with Marie Dressler as Garbo's  ballerina and Jimmy Durante as the baron. Plus Laurel & Hardy! 
    because he "played all his roles seriously until the last reel." Metro's production genius,  Irving Thalberg, did not agree and Keation threatened a send-up, Grand Mills Hotel, in the Bowery with Marie Dressler as Garbo's  ballerina and Jimmy Durante as the baron! Plus Laurel & Hardy!
  2. Slim Summerville, Puddin’ Head, 1940.   Most Hollywood dailies listed Keaton for the battle of Fat Cat capitalist versus little Judy Canova of Withering Heights, Aksansas. But he never earned any of her record $750,000 budget. Judy had a bugger battle when suspensed during the shoot for - wait for it! - wanting script, casting and director approval.   Buster could have told her all about them battles!
  3. Jimmy Durante, Two Girls and a Sailor, 1943.   The old-timer was listed in Call Bureau Cast Service for  Billy Kipp  However, The Schnoz was chosen over genius!  In the 30s, MGM had tried - strupidly - to make a double act out of Kedatn and Durante – the comikc gebius and the burlesqued schnoz – in The Passioate Plumber, 1931, Speak Easy,  and What-No-Beer? 
  4. Jimmy Durante, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963.  First set for Smiler Grogan - given to Durante - Keaton became the ex-smuggler forced to help Spencer Tracy  take  off with all the loot.  Among those refusing the comic-packed flop were George Burns, Judy Holliday, Bob Hope, Stan Laurel,  Jackie Mason, Red Skelton - despite or because of  Phil Silvers holding crap games on  the set. 
  5. Benny Rubin, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, 1966.  Due as Chicken Feather (similar to his Beach Party role) in this  Beach Party in a Haunted House number,  Buster died at age 70 on February  1, 1966. He was subbed by an even older  veteran - 70 years in showbiz as comic, actor and “dialectician.”  
  6. Peter Sellers, The Optimists Of Nine Elms, 1973.   “No problem with script, or with me,” said UK director Anthony Simmonds. “Hollywood just didn't want toknow about Buster.”Nor about the film when Sellers made it - beautifully Channeling more of Dan Leno, than Keaton.(In 1951, Sellers was part of theLondon Palladium summer show headlined by... Danny Kaye).

    Footnote >>>

    When I met Buster - in Spain during Dick Lester's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  in 1965 - he was already very ill, coughing up blood. Yet still performing fearless stunts, such as running through  racing chariots… Five minutes after his double had been hit by one and  thrown high up into the air during a rehearsal that  we all thought he was dead on landing…    Keaton looked on, stood up, spats out some blood  and said OK, he was ready for his take…  And it was perfect.  Of course.  What else from a  comedy giant. 



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