Excellent ... An immense year-by-year, sometimes week-by-week, account of Keaton as an artist and a man. Every detail of his life and work is here, starting with his birth ... Curtis is particularly good on the early years.
... comprehensive ... Curtis...does a delightful job of capturing the old, weird America in which the Keatons plied their trade, Joe with his acrobatic pratfalls and high kicks, and the 4-foot-11 Myra with her musical accompaniment on piano and saxophone ... Keaton was as much a technical innovator as he was a comic, and Curtis’s book goes into painstaking detail about how these effects were achieved. (The spinning house was built on a turntable whose control belt was buried in dirt and grass.) Every bit as important, Buster Keaton serves as a welcome corrective to the perception that Keaton’s was a tragic life undone by drink and the advent of the talkies ... Curtis does not shy away from Keaton’s rock-bottom 1930s, when he lost his creative autonomy at MGM, wriggled out of a loveless marriage to his first wife, Natalie Talmadge, and drank so heavily that he was, for a time, unemployable. But the overall picture he paints is of an even-keeled showbiz lifer who was simply happy to keep on working ... The lack of operatic highs and lows in Keaton’s life can make Curtis’s straight-ahead, sequentially narrated bio a slog if you’re not a committed Buster Boi, but it’s as definitive an account of the sad-faced comedian as one could hope for.
Keaton fans have often complained that nearly all biographies of him suffer from a questionable slant or a cursory treatment of key events. With Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life—at more than 800 pages dense with research and facts—Mr. Curtis rectifies that situation, and how. He digs deep into Keaton’s process and shows how something like the brilliant two-reeler Cops went from a storyline conceived from necessity—construction on the movie lot encouraged shooting outdoors—to a masterpiece ... This will doubtless be the primary reference on Keaton’s life for a long time to come ... the worse Keaton’s life gets, the more engrossing Mr. Curtis’s book becomes.