best film:  The General is still the best Keaton film even if Sherlock Jr. may have the best singular Keaton moment with the changing landscape background sequence. The General is Keaton standing way back—and making set pieces (and a great narrative, sight gags, his performance) out of trains—and into art.

best performance: The General though I could be argued down here by a number of performances. In his heyday Keaton’s unmatched deadpan was prevalent in every film. In some films he showed more tenderness than others (College, Our Hospitality—and here in The General) but he’s largely recreating the same persona (much like Wayne, Bogart Cagney and others a decade later) over and over again. I think The General has his greatest narrative and pulling off his deadpan on the front of a locomotive.

stylistic innovations/traits:  From 1923 to 1928 Keaton was the best actor on the planet. Chaplin gave us The Circus and The Gold Rush during that time but two of his towering performances are in the 30’s and Chaplin took long stretches off between films. Keaton was working quickly (9 archiveable films in 6 years). The two auteurs and comic actors are forever linked. Keaton is stronger with visuals, set pieces, and direction. Chaplin, I think, the more sentimental and at the end of the day—the better actor. However, it’s more than just ranking the two- there’s a difference approach despite the fact that they’re both silent comedians. There are two types of actors, essentially (and this is way too simplistic but bear with me). One type is to animate or express. That’s Chaplin. His face is almost always alive. That’s Cagney. There’s Sean Penn in Mystic River. Early comic Bill Murray in broader comedies, or Al Pacino in Scarface– loud, very expressive and dynamic performances. Then there’s the Keaton type- the internalized performance that withholds. It’s deadpan. There’s Montgomery Clift here, later Bill Murray (Broken Flowers, Lost in Translation), De Niro in Heat, Steve McQueen or today’s Ryan Gosling. Keaton is a type—and his subtle style of acting has aged so well.

directors worked with:   Keaton (9) and then a cameo each in the 1950’s with Wilder and Chaplin

Top 5 Performances:

  1. The General
  2. Our Hospitality
  3. Steamboat Bill, Jr.
  4. Sherlock Jr
  5. The Navigator

Archiveable films

1923- Our Hospitality
1924- Sherlock Jr.
1924- The Navigator
1925- Go West
1925- Seven Chances
1926- The General
1927- College
1928- Steamboat Bill
1928- The Cameraman
1950- Sunset Boulevard
1952- Limelight
1956- Around the World In 80 Days