Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Doozy #3: End of a Perfect Day: Buster Keaton

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In Daily Dose #3, seeing the abnormal house made me laugh right out loud.  Seriously.  He's worried about getting a piano in the house, when the bigger problem should be the pitched roof that only covers half of the house!   :D

 

1)  As mentioned above, I think the set design played a large role in making this scene work.  The ceiling that is so flexible, yet Keaton is willing to use it as a vertex in his pulley system...the front fencing on the porch that doubles as a ladder....the window WITHOUT the typical rectangular shape... it all adds to the comedic element.  Pair all of that nonsense with the superb performance of Keaton and supporting roles, and you have a gag that is visually hilarious!

 

2)  Keaton's comedy is more direct.  It's funny, obviously, but more of an "in your face" kind of funny.  A lot of it seems to be based (and mind you, I am no silent film expert just yet) on the violent aspect of slapstick.  Also, the story lines seem to be based on average, everyday citizens just getting through their day.  Chaplin's comedy is more devious and mischievous... the characters he plays seem to be escaping, plotting against, and making a fool of authority of every kind.  Each method works for me, because I find myself laughing every time!

 

3) I think Keaton has added the element of "shock and awe" in normal, everyday life to the history of slapstick comedy.  A piano falling on a man, for example, astounds me.  The previous clips we saw of the entire wall of a house falling around him as he completes his own stunts leave the viewer wondering what will come next.  He's taken the violence element of slapstick to a level much different than anything I've seen yet.  

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In Daily Dose #3, seeing the abnormal house made me laugh right out loud.  Seriously.  He's worried about getting a piano in the house, when the bigger problem should be the pitched roof that only covers half of the house!   :D

 

1)  As mentioned above, I think the set design played a large role in making this scene work.  The ceiling that is so flexible, yet Keaton is willing to use it as a vertex in his pulley system...the front fencing on the porch that doubles as a ladder....the window WITHOUT the typical rectangular shape... it all adds to the comedic element.  Pair all of that nonsense with the superb performance of Keaton and supporting roles, and you have a gag that is visually hilarious!

 

2)  Keaton's comedy is more direct.  It's funny, obviously, but more of an "in your face" kind of funny.  A lot of it seems to be based (and mind you, I am no silent film expert just yet) on the violent aspect of slapstick.  Also, the story lines seem to be based on average, everyday citizens just getting through their day.  Chaplin's comedy is more devious and mischievous... the characters he plays seem to be escaping, plotting against, and making a fool of authority of every kind.  Each method works for me, because I find myself laughing every time!

 

3) I think Keaton has added the element of "shock and awe" in normal, everyday life to the history of slapstick comedy.  A piano falling on a man, for example, astounds me.  The previous clips we saw of the entire wall of a house falling around him as he completes his own stunts leave the viewer wondering what will come next.  He's taken the violence element of slapstick to a level much different than anything I've seen yet.  

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1. I love Buster Keaton. I always wonder if he lived with a lot of pain later in life. Must have been rough. Anyway, he obviously had great charisma and timing. His wife was also helpful, as the last gag of putting the sheet music on the piano was hilarious. I think she helped in this skit more than the man in the ceiling. That was a bit of a detractor. The acting and stunts are superb. And , this idea, that he's ruining his house by trying to build it is pretty close to home (as they say) to a lot of people. I think that narrative adds to the humor. Also liked the indoor/outdoor effect.  

 

2. Charlie Chaplin relies on his persona more than Keaton. Keaton loves these stunts, and that frightening quality is thrilling. everyone loves it today when they know it's real. Everybody loves the actor who does his/her own stunts. Chaplin captures hearts. He is able to be lovable, but a bit selfish, but hten generous, all in a few minutes. Chaplin's charisma was palpable. Keaton is good, but physically he's great.

 

3. I think what actually is hilarious in this and many other silent era comedies, is that all the characters are really trying to be nice to each other and do what's right. However, inadvertently they are physically killing each other. Keaton hears the man's cries for help. He goes to help, not knowing he caused this man's predicament. And when he tries to help he fails. Then when the wife sees the piano in the house, she's thrilled, even though Keaton has nearly killed himself and he's wrecked the roof and floor. But they're both trying to be nice to each other. So, that was funny, too. Their intentions are true; their reality is pratfall and danger everywhere. But the audience often gets to see that dramatic irony more than the players. So that helps it become more interactive, too, which is fun. 

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1.  I think the set design, props, camera placement and acting are what make this gag effective. The set design provides the foundation for the gag. The props and the acting set up the gag and move it along to its conclusion.  The placement of the camera and the angles that are used not only allow the viewer to get the complete picture of the visual comedy from beginning to end, it also adds to the joke by providing the visual timing.

 

2.  I think Keaton’s comedy relies more on physical comedy and the use of props whereas Chaplin’s comedy relies more on costumes and the use of facial expressions.

 

3.  I think Keaton took visual comedy a step further by adding the use of props and more physical slapstick.  This type of comedy seems to be what has been more predominant in the use of visual comedy as it has continued throughout the years.

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1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy? 

 

It has taken me a few days to get around to do this. but first time i viewed this last week, i thought it was good and did not pay much attention to the fine details. Today my second viewing i have to say if you look super close you can view the quick prop changes though out the short.

 

-First one i saw was when the big man drops the piano onto Buster. if you look at the piano it has a soft cushioned back for when he drops the piano. Then the next shot when you see the back of the piano that soft cushinoed back is gone and we see the wooden back of the piano.

 

-Second detail i saw was in the ceiling, before the man walks up the stairs if you look at the ceiling its a hard wooden ceiling. When the man walks to his room and sits down we are back down stairs with Buster and if you look at the ceiling you can already see that its almost gone aka you can see that the wood on the ceiling is gone. After the man's head is in the ceiling and we see Buster down stairs you can see its once again a wooden ceiling.

 

-Third and final detail I saw was right before the piano hits the ground. Look at the ground its wood. Then look at the ground when the piano falls, you can see its already blocked and they have a spot for the piano to fall into.

 

 

2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin?

I think as of now i prefer Keaton;s brand of comedy then Chaplin. Keaton is more physical and Chaplin is more almost "everyman's comedy" 


3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy?

I feel looking at this not from a comedy point of view but from a stunt point of view, you can see everything was well planned out, they had their marks to fall on. and done right stunts can be very funny.

 

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1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy?

 

Set design, costumes, and props are the one that make this gag effective as visual comedy. They all come together to make a great show.

 

2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin?

 

I think Keaton's comedy differs from Charlie Chaplin is more physical comedy with props. 

 

3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

I think he added his own spin on things. All the physical comedy with the props he uses seems bigger and better. The fact that he does his own stunts gives it something extra. 

 

 

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1. The element that makes this Buster Keaton gag so effective is the props. At each turn in the gag Keaton is interacting with some props in a really visually fantastic way proving that the props in a gag can become characters themselves.

 

2. The largest difference I see between Chaplin and Keaton's comedy is the focus on triumph and failure. Chaplin's comedy relies heavily on his character eventually triumphing over the injustices that he faced. Keaton, on the other hand, Keaton seems to meet failure at every turn in his comedy. 

 

3. When I watch gags like this, I see Keaton paving the way for physical comic actors of today. People like The Three Stooges and even modern-day Jim Carey seem to borrow heavily from the Buster Keaton extremely physical approach to comedy. 

 

 

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I just had to pause the second Dr. Gearing vimeo to comment. He says Chaplin is Dickens, but Keaton is Beckett. Spot on. Never thought of it that way. Exactly.

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Keaton's world and the situations he confronts tend to be predominated by machinery -- usually machinery that is broken down in some way. Again and again, Keaton needs to find a way to fix something or to fashion a tool or combination of tools to fix things. He's a tinkering hero trying to patch together a broken universe with the tools and materials at hand. Chaplin, on the other hand, seems to resist the machine-aspect of his world. It's like he's hanging on to his humanity and refusing to let the machines take over. Whether the machine in question is the factory conveyor belt in Modern Times, or the well-oiled military drills of WWI in Shoulder Arms, Chaplin seems to resist becoming assimilated and fully integrated. Keaton, on the other hand, tends to find kooky and creative ways to fix problems in the machines he encounters. His fixes don't always work in a practical way. But they always manage to manufacture laughter.

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1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy?

 

One of the first things you notice is the man who appears to be carrying a piano one handed on his shoulder. I was thinking it was very light. As it is dropped on Keaton, you realize it is not so light but very heavy. The piano is heavy enough to require a pulley that eventually pulls down the ceiling and does all kinds of damage while being placed into the home. Keaton problem solved very efficiently but lead to terrible results in a most hilarious fashion. All the while he is straight faced makes it funnier. I like being able to see the upstairs that Keaton can't see his pulley system pulling the ceiling down.

 

2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin?

 

Keaton makes his comedy on a grand scale bigger than life. With Chaplin I feel more like he's breaking the fourth wall with me to pull me into his comedy. It's smaller in comparison but the laughs are just as big.

 

 

3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

I think he is the perfect stone faced man comedian. He never laughs and keeps a straight face.

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Again, we have here exaggerated situations. The piano seems to be light when the first man carries it, but we see it is actually really heavy when Keaton tries to carry it. And it's weight will pave the entire narrative from this point on. Camera is placed normally in wide shots, so we can see all action as an organic succesion of events that are related to each other. Film editing is there but only when needed. Not too much cuts at all.

 

It seems to me that Keaton's comedy tries to be more visual, bigger, more impressive than Chaplin's. Keaton's phisycal abilities are one step further from Chaplin's, so he explores that all the time. Charles Chaplin, on the other hand, get small ordinary actions from one's routine and extracts gags and visual slapstick stiations from that. And both of them work very well!

 

The main Keaton contribution I see is the big visual gag. There are uncountable modern references of that even on cartoons that drink a lot from his references. If we have in mind that we're talking about movies made one century ago, it is nothing less than impressive. Really impressive.

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1) The effectiveness of the gags in this piece are do, in a large part, to the complexity and absurdity of the sets

2) Chaplin took simple things and made them funny by strength of personality. With Keaton, it seems like crazy things happen to him and he tries to react to them. 

3)I feel like he influenced gene wilder in the idea of trying to cope with an insane situation. Wilder often is depicted as the only sane person in an insane situation and that is very keaton. 

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The Early Silent era of cinema was the real thing! You didn't have to great the effect for the perfect shot you just had to make it all happen in that one special shot. There was no compromise. Either you succeeded or not. You had to have that vision and that talent to make it work and Buster Keaton was one of them. Those actors made it real happen risking their lives for the one and true best performance of their act! None can do this again. They were growing with the "big screen", they were experimenting with their early stuff as they used to do in circus. It was fun but it was real and that made all the difference! Keaton was an alabaster moving statue looking almost like a porcelain doll that survived through all that slapstick comedy chaos. He was a pionner!

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What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy? The interaction of the actors with the props is brilliant. Take Keaton's interaction with the ladder. His propelling the ladder away from the house, then balancing on it vertical, and then climbing down it. That particular moment is hilarious, scary, and amazing to watch.

 

 

2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin? I feel like Chaplin displayed more emotion in his films. Whether this was through physical facial expressions or the moral of the story, Chaplin mastered that. Keaton was just as physically impressive as Chaplin.

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1. I think one thing that makes this scene work is the camera placement on focusing on one part of the house at a time rather than some of Keaton's work where we can see both the top and bottom of a house. When we are looking at the first floor and then the second, it seems like a tug of war, the audience is still aware of what is going on but the placement allows us to see each predicament, focusing in on the smaller picture one at a time, all the while knowing the bigger picture is going to have a breaking point, the audience is in on the joke. The chandelier is just funny, it's always been funny to see people swinging from things, but chandeliers look kind of ridiculous and it's fun to say. :P Not a very professional response there on those last few lines but I stand by them. 

2. I feel like I used to have an answer to this, but just off the cuff I would say that I like Buster Keaton for his emotion and his face that kind of is a straight man. I think he pushes the limits of the genre in some ways and physically sacrifices himself for a gag. His whole thing is that he is not in the know, he is unaware of what is up, down, or coming at him. Even if he sees one thing, he'll miss another. Whereas Charlie Chaplin created himself into a very specific caricature of "the tramp" and the tramp often knows what he is doing is wrong, like taking some cake, but he is hungry and he is going to take it. That really doesn't do it justice, so maybe I'll come back on this board and figure out what I want to say more eloquently.

3. I feel like Buster Keaton added more of a theatrical spin to slapstick--it's dramatic, a whole house is going to fall on him or he is going to pull a whole house down by a carpet. In "Sherlock Jr"--it's amazing to see the technology for that time of him walking into a movie. I feel like he added more of the impossible to movies. He made things more dream land, unrealistic, and incredulous to believe that someone could be so lucky. Always at the exact right mark to avoid being hit. Yet, we kind of do believe in this, because there have been times where we miss things by a hair or we have friends that always seem to be at the right place at the right time. Peter Sellers in Pink Panther seems to have the same way of being clueless that he is evading dangers all around him. 

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The house was completely modular so the gags could be done. The way he pulled off the porch railing to make a ladder was surprising. But the entire look of the house told the audience to expect funny mayhem.

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    In this clip from “One Week” (1920), Buster Keaton wages battle with a piano that he is trying to get into his new house.  The extended gag is propelled by a large number of props that either aid or impede Keaton’s attempts to move the piano.  The first props that we see are the box in which the piano is delivered, carried on the shoulder of a husky deliveryman and the weak ladder that Keaton descends quickly as the rungs break.   The ladder gag is over in an instant, while the box gag is drawn out.  Both add to the humor of the scene.   The man carries the box like it is filled with feathers; when he hands it over to Keaton, it knocks him over and lands on top of him.  Unconcerned, the deliveryman lifts the box to get Keaton to sign for the delivery, then drops it back on top of him.  Next, Keaton must get the piano into the house -- a house so bizarrely mis-constructed as to be a work of abstract art.  Keaton’s amazing athleticism and sense of balance is demonstrated when he uses a loose pipe to climb up and loop the rope around the chandelier, so he can haul the piano through the opening in the wall.  Inside the house, the ceiling is pulled down from the force of the piano.  When the rope gives, the ceiling rebounds with force, propelling the head of the paperhanger working upstairs through the roof.  Keaton climbs up onto the roof and tries to pry the guy up through the roof, before accidentally knocking him back down.  Coming back down, he demonstrates his physical skills, again, by balancing on a ladder.  This is predominantly prop-driven comedy.

 

     This emphasis on props is one of the main difference between Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.   As Montgomery characterized it, Keaton was involved in an eternal struggle against every kind of machine or monster.  In this sense, he might be called an “oppositional comedian;” his humor came out of his struggles with people and things that got in his way.  This approach resulted in the need for many props with which he could interact.  This differs from Chaplin, who relied more on his personality than an abundance of props to drive his comedy.   This difference between the two shows in their films and is shown on their faces.  While Chaplin’s face was emotive and expressive, and constantly changing, Keaton’s face was an unchanging deadpan that earned him the sobriquet “The Great Stone Face.”

 

     The primary contribution Buster Keaton made to slapstick comedy was to increase the complexity and physicality of his gags.  Even at this early stage of his independent career, the complexity of these stunts and the physical skills required to do them is amazing.  And as we have seen, each new movie Keaton made involved increasingly difficult and dangerous stunts.  No one before or since has made more physical sacrifices and faced more physical dangers for their comedy.    

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As said by John Montgomery, the drama in every Buster Keaton film is between a comedian and the monster (in this case, a gigantic piano). In the film ONE WEEK, the set design is created very well as it depicts a disordered house. The costumes are very apt for the film. Props mostly includes the whimsical house and the monstrous piano which wrestled with the "Great Stone Face". The camera was well placed and the shot of Buster Keaton with the piano was taken very well. Buster Keaton played his part fair and square along with the supporting actors' performances. The similarity between Chaplin and Keaton is that they both are comedians and the main difference is that Chaplin is a friendly comedian who performs his comedy routines with light heart touch whereas Keaton is a robust comedian who performs his comedy routines with adventurous actions. This scene gives us a thought that Mr Keaton is no ordinary comedian when it comes to doing acrobatic stunts in his own films and he has shown us that he could make us laugh without the help of stunt doubles.

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1. What elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) make this gag effective as visual comedy?

 

The piano, the house and acting all make this effective because one plays off the other.

 

2. In what ways do you sense that Keaton's comedy differs from that of Charlie Chaplin?

 

Keaton doesn't steal. Chaplin you always saw getting chased by police but not Keaton. Also Keaton started his career playing off Fatty Arbuckle but as things evolved Keaton played off of his perilous surroundings like a two story house, a train, etc.

 

3. When you watch a scene like this with Buster Keaton, what contributions do you sense he added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

Keaton led the way for people taking something like a house falling on someone to new heights giving himself little to no room for mistakes.

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