Buster Keaton in “College”

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Today is the anniversary of the NYC release date of the Buster Keaton comedy College (1927). This is one of my least favorite Keaton features (it seems less characteristic of Keaton, less surreal, and somewhat derivative of the formulas of Harold Lloyd and the early pre-UA Douglas Fairbanks) but I can see why it’s popular with lovers of Keaton the athlete and sex symbol.

Surely influenced by Lloyd’s The Freshman of two years before, this one casts Keaton in the hard-to-credit role of high school class valedictorian. When we first meet him he is giving a speech on the “curse of athletics”, but love for a girl (Anne Cornwall) inspires him to attend a college that is all about sports. He fails miserably at every team he goes out for, but in the final reel performs Olympic level feats of track and field including a spectacular pole vault, in his effort to rescue the girl from a cad who wants to compromise her. This is the film with the famous, eerie ending depicting the rest of his life in a series of dissolves…marriage, babies, old age, then gravestones!

To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy including Buster Keaton classics like “College”, please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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