1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $45.50

Buy for $45.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

From acclaimed cultural and film historian James Curtis—a major biography, the first in more than two decades, of the legendary comedian and filmmaker who elevated physical comedy to the highest of arts and whose ingenious films remain as startling, innovative, modern—and irresistible—today as they were when they beguiled audiences almost a century ago.

"It is brilliant—I was totally absorbed, couldn't stop reading it and was very sorry when it ended." (Kevin Brownlow)

It was James Agee who christened Buster Keaton “The Great Stone Face.” Keaton’s face, Agee wrote, "ranked almost with Lincoln’s as an early American archetype; it was haunting, handsome, almost beautiful, yet it was also irreducibly funny. Keaton was the only major comedian who kept sentiment almost entirely out of his work and...he brought pure physical comedy to its greatest heights.”

Mel Brooks: “A lot of my daring came from Keaton.”

Martin Scorsese, influenced by Keaton’s pictures in the making of Raging Bull: “The only person who had the right attitude about boxing in the movies for me,” Scorsese said, “was Buster Keaton.”

Keaton’s deadpan stare in a porkpie hat was as recognizable as Charlie Chaplin’s tramp and Harold Lloyd’s straw boater and spectacles, and, with W. C. Fields, the four were each considered a comedy king—but Keaton was, and still is, considered to be the greatest of them all.

His iconic look and acrobatic brilliance obscured the fact that behind the camera Keaton was one of our most gifted filmmakers. Through 19 short comedies and 12 magnificent features, he distinguished himself with such seminal works as Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, Steamboat Bill, Jr., The Cameraman, and his masterpiece, The General.

Now James Curtis, admired biographer of Preston Sturges (“definitive,” Variety), W. C. Fields (“by far the fullest, fairest and most touching account we have yet had. Or are likely to have,” Richard Schickel, front page of The New York Times Book Review), and Spencer Tracy (“monumental; definitive,” Kirkus Reviews), gives us the richest, most comprehensive life to date of the legendary actor, stunt artist, screenwriter, director—master.

©2022 James Curtis (P)2022 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Buster Keaton

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    9
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    28
  • 4 Stars
    6
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    6
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A well-researched, entertaining expose

"He was, as we're now beginning to realize, the greatest of all the clowns in the history of the cinema." -- Orson Welles.
I've been a fan of Buster Keaton for awhile, so I felt compelled to get this in the hopes I'd learn new things. Soon into the audiobook I learned that Buster went to WWI. He also got on and off his first base with an amusing gag. Even though I've studied Keaton for awhile now, there is much I did not know.
Highly recommended. David Pittu does an excellent job calling up Buster's voice when needed.
Random item I didn't know: Buster liked doing parody. In one of his first, Houdini was doing a straitjacket escape on a theatre bill. At the age of six, he did a parody of the straitjacket escape.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Unprecidented depth and detail... Amazing book!

When I read Kevin Brownlow's reaction to this bio of Buster Keaton, I knew I had to buy it. I've read other accounts of Keaton's life, but still wasn't prepared for this incredible ride with Buster through his life.

His films and partnerships are deep and understandably related. Even the Talmadge family situations avoid the tabloid drag and kept the story human.

Honestly, I still have 10 hr left in the book, but I'm enthralled with the whole thing... from the medicine shows, living on the road through his childhood and to the legendary silent film era, now I'm just entering his sound movies (at this point in the book).

After Mark Lewisohn's Tune In, I never thought I'd find such a major, incredible bio again, ( I doubt I'll live long enough to read Lewisohn's Turn On, second part of the trilogy) but James Curtis has delivered a book that I'm very grateful to still be around to read. The narrator is excellent as well.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

must listen for any film buff

this book gives the whole buster Keaton story (with all of the involved players) in a very personal and intimate way.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Marathon narrator, Research oriented author

The narrator's Keaton impression is very good. The book has a great subject but could have used a great editor.

Watch the wonderful movies Keaton made.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Great Buster Keaton

This is the finest and most thorough biography of Buster Keaton I’ve found. I’ve been a huge fan of Buster Keaton’s films for many years and this biography was so wonderful that my love for him is even greater. I especially appreciate how Curtis gives thoughtful consideration to the work Keaton did after the silent era, which for too long has been wholly dismissed as a pathetic coda to his acknowledged independent masterpieces. Buster Keaton left us with a legacy of some of the most sublime and evergreen films ever created, and this book gives an honest and thoughtful account of the real person and the circumstances that created his particular and extraordinary genius. This recording was also incredibly well narrated.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

SO BAD I HAD TO STOP LISTENING

I really wish I'd seen the other reviews posted here about how awful the pronunciations are in this audiobook because I wouldn't have bought it. Joe Schenck is the worst: this guy is a huge name in 20th century Hollywood, a founding member of United Artists, not to mention the fact he discovered two of the greatest comedians of the silent era, Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, so given how famous he is, why didn't the narrator find out how to say his name correctly? If his name was only mentioned a handful of times I could've dealt with it, but there's easily a hundred mentions in the book, and I actually found myself hoping against hope that he might get it right just once...! But no. And as bad as that was, the narrator gets tons of other things wrong: city/town names (Truckee and Merced, I'm from California and have been to both these locations numerous times, would it have been hard to maybe call their chamber of commerce or library or something and found out how they're supposed to be pronounced, or God forbid find a reference to someone saying the names on youtube??), other famous names like Irving Thalberg, a name that one of the Academy Awards is named for, how hard is that to find? And perhaps most awful of all, Chico Marx. It's CHICK-oh, not CHEEK-oh, as anyone even remotely familiar with Hollywood history could tell you. To be honest, there are probably more words/names that are mispronounced but I can't listen anymore, I have to buy the print version because this is just too terrible and this deserves to be read -- but NOT listened to. And to any of you reading this who think these are small issues, history matters and deserves to be done right.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

IS IT ASKING TOO MUCH TO GET THINGS RIGHT?

I've been looking forward to this book ever since it was announced, and I really wish I could've rated this book higher, just cuz I'm sure the narrator is a nice guy and the book itself was good, but man oh man, did nobody do any research before this was recorded? Is that the narrator's fault, or is there a director, or is there ANY quality control at all? Joseph Schenck: I know the name looks confusing, but it's not that hard to find out how to pronounce it. There are documentaries where Buster himself talks about the guy, and always pronounces it with a hard K sound, almost like skunk, but skenk. Maybe it wouldn't have been a big deal, but his name comes up HUNDREDS of times, and every one of them is pronounced wrong. After a while it's like nails on a chalkboard.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Strong editor needed!

I listened to nearly half of this book. I can’t believe how long and drawn out every single movie Keaton made was discussed. Every gag, every actor, every cameraman, etc. Then every penny the movie cost and then how much it cleared. It felt like reading the details of a lawsuit or prospectus. So incredibly boring.

Also, the way Keaton’s racism was just laid out with no comment or context. It’s as if the author is himself deaf to such insults. No insights to the man, just unending droning of facts and figures. Please don’t waste your time unless you have plenty to spare.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Comprehensive and Frustrating

Clearly the book is the new definitive Keaton biography, offering a level of detail absent from those that have gone before; however, while I would heartily recommend the print edition, for Keaton fans this recording is consistently aggravating to listen to because so many prominent names are mispronounced by the narrator; most notably Schenk, Gerry and even Thalberg (at one point he begins to render it correctly, as if someone brought his attention to it midway through the recording process, but even then he occasionally reverts back to his prior pronunciation). Although one might fault the narrator - who reasonably could have taken steps to determine the proper pronunciations - I principally blame the producer of the recording, who should have become familiar enough with the material to not let such a blatant set of errors occur.

There's also one instance where the narrator either had a typo in his manuscript or else just blew the word "ease" and read it as "case."

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for busby
  • busby
  • 04-24-22

Wow!

The greatest biography of an actor since John Lahr’s NOTES ON A COWARDLY LIION and superbly read.