• Camera Man

  • Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century
  • By: Dana Stevens
  • Narrated by: Dana Stevens
  • Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (72 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this genre-defying work of cultural history, the chief film critic of Slate places comedy legend and acclaimed filmmaker Buster Keaton’s unique creative genius in the context of his time.

Born the same year as the film industry in 1895, Buster Keaton began his career as the child star of a family slapstick act reputed to be the most violent in vaudeville. Beginning in his early 20s, he enjoyed a decade-long stretch as the director, star, stuntman, editor, and all-around mastermind of some of the greatest silent comedies ever made, including Sherlock Jr., The General, and The Cameraman.

Even through his dark middle years as a severely depressed alcoholic finding work on the margins of show business, Keaton’s life had a way of reflecting the changes going on in the world around him. He found success in three different mediums at their creative peak: first vaudeville, then silent film, and finally the experimental early years of television. Over the course of his action-packed 70 years on earth, his life trajectory intersected with those of such influential figures as the escape artist Harry Houdini, the pioneering Black stage comedian Bert Williams, the television legend Lucille Ball, and literary innovators like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Samuel Beckett.

In Camera Man, film critic Dana Stevens pulls the lens out from Keaton’s life and work to look at concurrent developments in entertainment, journalism, law, technology, the political and social status of women, and the popular understanding of addiction. With erudition and sparkling humor, Stevens hopscotches among disciplines to bring us up to the present day, when Keaton’s breathtaking (and sometimes life-threatening) stunts remain more popular than ever as they circulate on the internet in the form of viral gifs. Far more than a biography or a work of film history, Camera Man is a wide-ranging meditation on modernity that paints a complex portrait of a one-of-a-kind artist.

©2022 Dana Stevens. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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The Dawn of Cinema Through The Life of Buster Keaton

Dana Stevens tackles many interesting subjects in this Buster Keaton biography. I like how it tackles subjects such as child actors, the movie industry, alcoholism, McCarthyism, etc through the life of BK in such a seamless way.

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Dana Stevens, “professor” of early cinema

This book could be a textbook for early film and Hollywood. But it’s nothing like a dry, data driven textbook. Oh yes, it’s filled with information Dana has found by digging deep, but she presents it in such a creative and logical way that one hardly knows they are learning so much abt Keaton and the early movie industry. I’ve been waiting for this book since I heard it was being written and the end product was worth the wait.

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Worth a listen, but only as a postscript to Curtis

Not a biography as the new Curtis book is, but rather a musing on aspects of 20th century culture that Keaton did not necessarily always play a part in. Written from a personal perspective, rather than an objective historical one, the author frequently refreshes our understanding of things that happened to interesting people in the early to later modern era, from Roscoe Arbuckle to Samuel Beckett. While some readers may find the connections strained or less insightful than the author does, the book still offers much to think about. In the end, I found the book disarmingly thoughtful and hauntingly sad, not because Keaton’s life was sad, but because the book often eulogizes the passing of both an art form and the world that originated it. Watch the films while you read, you’ll see things the author sometimes doesn’t. And don’t worry about the occasional factual errors, the author was not well served by the copy editor. The reading by the author is pleasant to listen too, but at times naive, with a childlike appreciation of Keaton’s art. In the end, from one who has been enjoying Keaton for 60 years, I am happy to say this book added to my application of him, and I think that’s the gift of this book.

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More than a biography!

From Charlie Chaplin to Louie B Mayer, to Irving Thalberg to Lucille Ball the author enriches the story of Keaton by writing of key people around him and of his many talents. The book includes a great overview of the development of movies from the silent era to the time of Keaton’s death. The author is a good narrator of her book.

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The fates converged...

... to lead me to this fine biography, and to an appreciation of the work of an entertainment genius.

Having been born in late 1954, I was familiar with Buster's name and face, but not with his work. I recently saw a review of Sherlock Jr. as a forgotten classic, watched it in amazement, listened to an interview with Dana Stevens, all within the span of a few days, and added this book to my library. Setting aside a few other books I was reading, I could have listened to this in one day. To me, it was that good.

I appreciate Ms. Stevens including mention of Buster's works in later life, which I will add to my viewing list. It's sad, to me, that Buster never took the opportunity to audition for the part of Lucky in Waiting for Godot. To see him playing opposite Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith would have been a treat.

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A well written tribute

I really enjoyed this tribute to one of greatest of all time. Thank you!

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terrific book

I enjoyed every facet of this book. I am very glad to have read it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-10-22

Exceptional

Fascinating and compelling. I shall now submerse myself in Buster Keaton features and shorts and I’ll go back and read again.
Throughly enjoyed this brilliantly researched and paced book.