October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966
He was old school. You might think me stupid, but he was one of those silent film actors that sort of blurred in to the rest of them, to me. Harold Lloyd, etc. I do remember him turning up in Beach Blanket Bingo, with my all time fave, Annette Funicello. Don’t you dare say a bad word about my girl.
He had been happily married to Eleanor Norris, who was considerably younger than him. He was once married to Natalie Talmadge, sister of the famous ones, and they had two sons together.
At the end of his life, Buster lived in Woodland Hills, CA, on Sylvan Street.
His house was located at 22612.
Here is another (with the mailbox),
and last but not least, if Buster Keaton had lived, these would be his garbage cans.
Big Findadeath.com thanks to Steve Goldstein for the photographs.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in November of 1965. On February first, 1966 at 6:15a.m., Buster succumbed to lung cancer in his home.
He was 70 years old.
He is buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Findadeath.com friend Rebecca Mennel managed to dig up the fact that Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogy at the funeral.
Trivia: Buster was mates with Mr. Bottle head, Fatty Arbuckle.
More: Buster was so nicknamed by Harry Houdini, who was also his Godfather (thanks Beca)
Findadeath.com friend Clint Ford sends this in:
Just wanted to make an addition to your great mention of Buster Keaton. I’m almost positive his very last movie was in the 1966 Zero Mostel movie, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum”. His part was small… he played Erronius, the “running father”. I believe it was less than a month after filming his parts in this movie that he passed away.
Also– about getting the nickname “Buster” from Harry Houdini. I’ve heard this on a documentary somewhere. When Houdini visited the Keaton household in 1896, he witnessed a 6-month-old baby crawl frantically towards the stairs, and before anyone could reach him– Baby Keaton hurled himself down the entire flight, allegedly “laughing all the way”. When he landed, he looked up at his stunned mother, father, and Godfather Harry (who were still standing atop the stairs), and laughed out loud.
Harry responded, “Well, looks like he enjoys getting busted around a bit… don’t ya, Buster?”
The name stuck.
Findadeath.com friend Kevin Hassell sends this in: I remember seeing Buster Keaton appear on an episode of Lucille Ball’s second series (Here’s Lucy)? I forget the title. I saw it a while ago, and remembered it when I saw his entry. I think it was one of his
last appearances, next to Beach Blanket Bingo. Just thought you’d like to know! Cheers!
Great stuff, Kevin. Thanks.
UPDATE January 2003, from Findadeath friend Madeleine Partous of Montreal:
Great site! Re: Buster Keaton, he also appeared in an incredible episode of the Twilight Zone which combined “silent movie” techniques (bad piano, fuzzy speedy film) with “modern” film (for the time). The episode was written by Richard Matheson (third season so well into the ’60s!) and was called “Once Upon a Time”. Pure genius and possibly one of the funniest TZ eps ever done. Keaton was *extremely* old and still very nimble… M. Partous, Montreal
Great stuff, Madeleine, thanks!
This just in,February 2003, from Findadeath friend Wayne Hughes:
The nickname “Buster” has been attributed to Harry Houdini, who was indeed friends of the family and Buster’s godfather. However it is only a myth, the truth can been found in Marion Meade’s book cut to the chase. A friend of the family, George Pardy ( a vaudville comedien), watched Buster fall down a flight of stairs and exclaimed, “Gee whiz he’s a regular Buster”. Buster’s father identifies him in 1903, for the New York Dramatic Mirror. Buster changed the story for his autobiography to include Harry Houdini; this isn’t the only time Buster has stretched the truth!
Thanks for the info, Wayne! Interesting!
7 thoughts on “Buster Keaton”
Natalie Talmadge did more than just “clean his clock”. She wouldn’t allow him to even see his children after the divorce and even changed their last names to her maiden name just to get back at him. His contract was sold to MGM as his life was falling apart. According to his autobiography (which I highly recommend) when he performed the house falling around him stunt in Steamboat Bill Jr., everyone said it was too dangerous. He said he didn’t care if he died at that point because he had nothing to live for anymore. His last wife Eleanor saved his life.
Knew about Talmadge & the kids, but didn’t know about his not caring if he died with the falling house front (one of the all time greatest stunts ever!). Absolutely believe wife Eleanor saved his life. The best part of the end of his life was the kids in the ’60s rediscovered & “lionized” him & he knew it. After being a forgotten “has been” for decades, went to some film festival (in France?) honoring him. After the film ended he got a VERY loud & enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience. How gratifying it must have been for Buster to realize it wasn’t only 1920’s audiences that appreciated his work.
Something else remembered: When James & Pamela Mason bought his mansion, James found an old forgotten film vault on the property. When he opened it found quite a few of Buster’s films that had been considered “lost”! Not sure, but I think “The General” was one of them. More trivia: When the Mason’s sold off the huge canyon front yard, the new road to the mansion was named “Pamela Drive” after Mrs. Mason.
Buster & his falling house:
Buster’s spectacular estate, as it was before massive subdivision, in Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931). The film’s not all that great, but the property… incomparable. Wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was one of Beverly Hills most magnificent 1920’s movie star mansions.
All the land shown in the film, almost from the very beginning of the film, was his estate! The staircase from the house to the pool… was white marble! Won’t even take a guess as to how many millions it would take to reproduce something like that today….
Take a look at a truly “vanished” lifestyle:
Skip the above link & go to this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTBndx200ss
Mini documentary specific to the estate.
may you rest in peace buster keaton
OMG; can’t believe Buster gets such a short shrift from someone with such a obvious love and knowledge of films! Buster is now generally acknowledged as among the top three greatest silent film comedians; the other two being Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. He would have been as rich as those two, who died very rich, absent his divorce from Talmage (who “cleaned his clock”) and severe addictions to gambling and alcohol. Talmage, with lunatic delusions of grandeur, also compelled Buster to build one of the greatest silent era movie star mansions in Beverly Hills. The Spanish style hilltop mansion had its’ own canyon backyard with a magnificent white marble staircase (literally fit for a palace) from the house to the canyon floor pool. Needless to say Natalie got the house in the divorce and immediately sold it, and the property has been severely subdivided from the original acerage. The house was bought in the ’50s (when it was considered a white elephant) by James and Pamela Mason. The only reason the house exists today is because their kids, who sold it after Pamela’s death, made it a condition of the sale that the house not be torn down! Additional trivia : James and Pamela’s son is married to Belinda Carlisle of Go-Gos fame –