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Keaton's Silent Shorts

Keaton's Silent Shorts

Beyond the Laughter

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Gabriella Oldham


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
408 pages, 6.125 x 9.25, 22 illustrations


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About the Book

Filling a major gap in the critical canon, Keaton’s Classic Shorts: Beyond the Laughter chronicles the rapid growth in the filmmaker’s understanding of what makes both comedy and film successful. Keaton developed his major themes in these nineteen silent short films shot between 1920 and 1923, creating his persona “Buster” with his trademark stone face. These short films clearly indicate Keaton’s love of the camera and his concern for composition, symmetry, and images that delight the eye and startle the mind.

Oldham reconstructs each of these rarely seen films to enable the reader to “watch” Keaton’s performance, devoting a separate chapter to each. She analyzes each film’s strengths, weaknesses, and prevalent themes and threads. She also enables readers to plumb the depths of what seems to be surface comedy through philosophical, biographical, historical, and critical commentary, thus linking the shorts together into a cohesive study of Buster Keaton’s growth through his three-year independent venture as a filmmaker. Beyond the laughter and beyond the great stone face, Oldham presents a treasure of cinema comedy and a unique philosophy of life as captured by a great filmmaker.


Gabriella Oldham is the author of First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors and the children’s musical Melville and the Yellow Umbrella.


“This is an intelligent and readable introduc­tion and a worthy celebration of the ingenious artistry of Buster Keaton.”—Choice

“Oldham knows that the majority of the readers of her book haven’t seen the classic shorts, so in a remarkable way she has illustrated them with words, analyzed what was going on in Keaton’s life at the time, and offered what she has concluded from seeing these short films. It is a thoroughly engaging and informative study.”—Rapport