Auditorium - DAMSLab > 15:30


Michael McCarthy
Introduced by

Kevin Brownlow e Cecilia Cenciarelli


Thursday 29/06/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The second time I took Charlie unawares was on the day in 1951 when he sent for me to discuss doing a scene with him for Limelight, the last picture he made in this country. He seemed astonished at my appearance. Apparently he had expected to see a physical and mental wreck. But I was in fine fettle. I’d just been in New York for four months doing an average of two Tv guest shots a week. So I was prosperous and looked it.
“What have you been doing, Buster?” he asked. “You look in such fine shape”.
“Do you look at television, Charlie?” I asked.
“Good heavens, no”, he exclaimed. “I hate it. I will not permit it in my house. The idea of actors letting themselves be shown on that lousy, stinking, little screen!”.
“Don’t you even have it in the kids’ rooms, Charlie?”.
“There last of all. Oona has enough trouble as it is with the lively little boun cers. They are darlings, but mischievious. There would be no controlling them at all if we let them see all that tripe on television. Should be done away with. It is ruining the whole country”.
Then he said again, “But Buster, tell me, how do you manage to stay in such good shape. What makes you so spry?”.
“Television”, I said.
He gasped, choked, got red, then said, “Now about this sequence we’re going to do together”.
The subject of Tv was not mentioned again during the three days we did the sequence in Limelight in which I played the near-blind pianist and he the fiddler.
Tv had brought me back as an actor. By 1949, except for an occasional day’s work — which seemed to me to be getting more occasional all of the time — I had not put on grease paint for the cameras in almost five years. The summer theatres had put in no bids for my services since 1941 when I toured in The Gorilla. My most important engagement had been a four-week date as star of a famous Paris circus, back in 1947. So it was one of the thrills of my life when I got a chance in December of 1949 to do my own weekly Tv show on KHJ, the “Los Angeles Times” broadcasting station.
By then I had almost given up hope of getting another real chance as an actor. I emphasize the word almost, because no one with actor’s blood in his veins ever really admits to himself he is through, no matter what he says to other people. No, I did not really believe it in my heart, even after so many years of little success, no home runs, and plenty of errors.
The Buster Keaton Show was a success, but only on the West Coast where it gradually worked its way up to the position of Number One Comedy Program. In those days the only way to sell a Hollywood show to a national network was with kinetoscopes, and these were dismal things to look at eight or nine years ago. And my show was never sold to a sponsor as a coast-to-coast attraction. I think the story would have been different if I had waited for just two more years. But I had never, of course, wanted less to wait for anything.
The important thing, though, was how these appearances on local television shows steamed up the interest of producers in other fields. I did about twenty-three Buster Keaton Tv shows in 1950 and seventeen more in 1951. The same day I turned in the final 1951 show Eleanor and I left for Paris to play a return engagement at the Paris circus. The date was so successful that I was booked for another four-week engagement during the following year.
Buster Keaton, Charles Samuels, My Wonderful World of Slapstick, Doubleday, New York 1960

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Clyde Bruckman, Ben Perry. Scgf.: Seymour Klate. Mus.: George Greeley. Int.: Buster Keaton, Peter Leeds, Ray Erlenborn, Dona Gibson, Harold Goodwin, Harvey Parry, Ed Reimers (presentatore). Prod.: KTTV (Los Angeles) Television Series (1949-1951). 35mm. D.: 28’. Bn.


Film Notes

The Awakening was an episode of the syndicated anthology series Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents: The Rheingold Theatre, which aired from 1952 to 1957. The black-and-white Keaton episode aired in different American cities on different dates in July of 1954. The Awakening doesn’t fit easily into any particular genre. While the episode has a solid dose of humour, its dark, verbal wit seems more fitting for Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) than Keaton. Writer Lawrence B. (Larry) Marcus loosely adapted the screenplay from a famous short story, The Overcoat by Gogol. The story was originally published in Russia in 1842, but was not translated into English until 1949, five years before this teleplay.
Gogol’s short stories, novels and plays, including Taras Bul’ba (which was made into a British film in 1939 and an American film starring Tony Curtis in 1965), and The Government Inspector (which was made into the musical The Inspector General with Danny Kaye in 1949), often dealt with the dehumanizing effects of oppressive governments on the common people.
Watching the episode demonstrates why Buster was a fine choice. His stoic but expressive face projects a resignation that fits the part well. His low, gruff baritone voice is also remarkable. When he speaks, his voice is surprisingly forceful, which allows him to transform himself from a meek bureaucrat to an angry rebel with surprising skill.
The social commentary contained in The Awakening was especially daring, in part because the program was made during the Red scare of the 1950s, during which many in film and television were blacklisted for holding unpopular political viewpoints. It was rare for a producer to tackle such a political topic in those uncertain times, when blacklisting had become a common occurrence.
Dan Lybarger, “The Keaton Chronicle”, Spring 1996

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Nikolaj Vasil’evič Gogol’. Scen.: Larry Marcus. F.: Kenneth Talbot. M.: Peter Pitt. Scgf.: Duncan Sutherland. Mus.: Bretton Byrd. Int.: Buster Keaton (l’uomo), James Hayter (il capo), Carl Jaffe (il sarto), Lynne Cole (la ragazza), Geoffrey Keen (il supervisore), Christopher Lee (il proprietario della fabbrica). Prod.: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Productions. Air date: 14 luglio 1954. 35mm. D.: 28’. Bn.


Year: 1949
Country: USA
Running time: 11'
Film Version

English version