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October 5, 1995

Buster Keaton continues to get major media attention this year on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The one-time Perry resident is the subject of a feature article in the Cinema section of Time magazine which went on the stands Tuesday.

You'll recall that in previous columns I have given the dates of two full-scale celebrations being held to take note of that centennial. One was on Sept. 29-30 in Iola, Kan., which claims to be his birthplace (although Piqua, Kan., disputes that), and the other will be on Friday and Saturday of this week in Muskegon, Mich. Apparently the Muskegon fete is being held simply because that city loves Buster.

The Time article focuses on Keaton's artistry as it is exhibited in a collection of 11 silent feature-length movies and 19 short subjects which he made between 1920 and 1928. All of these are contained on 10 cassettes in a newly released collection offered by Kino Video of New York, and I have more to tell you about that in a moment. Among many centennial tributes, Time also lists Marion Meade's "thorough, poignant new biography," entitled "Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase," offered by HarperCollins.

Of all the centennial tributes, Time says the best is Kino Video's release of the cassettes that "include all the great works, spiffily restored." (All the quotes appearing here are from the magazine article, which was written by their movie reviewer, Richard Corliss.)

In addition -- and this one really makes me grind my teeth in anger -- AMC, the cable movie network, showed the entire Keaton collection of films yesterday, Oct. 4. Our local cable television service provider apparently told many folks here (including me) that AMC would be offered to Perry subscribers this fall, but now they say it is not part of our package. So, here in Perry, where Buster Keaton and his family once lived, we were deprived of that great treat. Anyone else feel like grumbling about that?

I have to quote a bit more from Time: "Nothing is less funny these days than the state of movie comedy. The Hollywood farces dominating the world's screens are sad affairs populated by TV stars playing dumb." Time says the antidote for that is to watch the Keaton collection from Kino to see how a master goes about making us laugh. Although Buster is usually enshrined with Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd in "silent comedy's holy trinity," the magazine says his true film brothers are Douglas Fairbanks and William S. Hart.

A previous Northwest Corner also mentioned that I had l been unable to find a source for the Kino collection, but a reader, David Moran of Ardmore, solved that problem. He sends me this information: The mailing address is Kino Video, 333 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018, or you can call them at 1-800-562-3330 to request a free copy of their current catalog. The Keaton films are in three boxed sets. Two of these are priced at $79.95 each and the third is $109.95.

I strongly believe that Perry should be doing something to stake our claim to the Buster Keaton legend because of our close connection to Buster, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Keaton, and other members of the family. It would be nice if we had the complete set of films at the library or at the museum, as well as the new biography by Marion Meade.

Reading the Time magazine article will help you understand just how highly Buster Keaton was regarded by the rest of the U.S. As much as I've written about him, you know my feeling. Perry was chosen as the site of the world premier of the Paramount movie based on his life story in 1957. We should build on that and in some manner start claiming recognition of our connection to his early years. Iola, Kan., and Muskegon, Mich., did it. What do you think?