“When we speak of silent comedy we speak instantly of three names—Chaplin, Loyd, Keaton.”
The Silent Clowns
The eyes of the world are on the Midwest today. Tomorrow they could shift back to the Middle East and Israel vs. Iran. But for at least a few hours during Super Bowl XLVI it will be New England vs. New York. Manning vs. Brady.
One-third of the entire United States population will be focused on the game (or the commercials) as the Patriots battle the Giants in Indianapolis, Indiana. (The game will also be broadcast in more than 200 countries.)
I thought it would be a fun challenge to see if I could connect the silent film era that I have been writing about recently with the Super Bowl. And so here’s the Harold Loyd Vs. Buster Keaton debate—in the battle of football movies. (I didn’t include Chaplin because he recently had his own post—Mr. Silent Films—plus he didn’t make a film about football.)
“It is taking nothing from Keaton or Loyd to say that Chaplin built the road along which they swept to success.”
Hollywood; The Pioneers
Keaton would appear to have the advantage because as Walter Kerr pointed out, ”Keaton ran so often during the twelve features he made in the 1920′s that the sprint became a trademark.” And, in fact, he did run a good deal in Three Ages (1923):
And the winner is—Buster Keaton. Why? Three reason:
1) First, Keaton not only starred in Three Ages, but he’s also credited as producing, directing and writing the film.
2) The Freshman was said to be pirated from H.C. Witwer’s short story, The Emancipation of Rodney.
3) I trust drama critic Walter Kerr’s (1913-1996) assessment of Keaton in his book The Silent Clowns: ”Let Chaplin be king and let Keaton court jester. The king effectively rules, the jester tells the truth.”
P.S. Just for some added Midwest mojo, Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas and Harold Loyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska—more unlikely places for Hollywood icons to come from. Talent comes from everywhere. Kerr (who was also a produced playwright, on top of writing for the New York Times) was born in Evanston, IL just about 200 miles north of today’s big game and received his BA and MA from Northwestern, on his way to becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in criticism.
P.P.S. And if you catch the game today, you might see a singer who was born in Bay City, Michigan and has sold more than 300 million albums. Madonna will be performing the half-time show.