Who would have dreamt that never-before-seen photographs and a copy of an annotated script for Buster Keaton’s masterpiece The General would turn up after almost 90 years? Yet that’s precisely what has occurred, and it’s cause for celebration.
Decades after Keaton went on location to Cottage Grove, Oregon to film his Civil War railroad story, curious Keaton buffs and scholars started traveling to the town in search of locations and eyewitnesses to the production. Snippets of history have resulted, but none can compare with the discovery of a cache of never-published photos taken during the Keaton troupe’s stay on location.
Here I will quote directly from a press release issued by the Damfinos: “A local photographer was given unprecedented access to the filming of the classic, and his vast collection of photographs and nitrate negatives remained stored in a box until found recently by one of his descendants. The collection was obtained by the member of the Buster Keaton Society, and rights to publish the materials were donated to the group. In addition, the only known script for the film, the personal copy of one of the film’s writers, Clyde Bruckman, complete with his and Keaton’s handwritten notes, recently surfaced at auction and rights for it were obtained by the Keaton Society, which plans to publish a book in the near future, featuring both the photographs and the script, along with other rare, previously unpublished material about the making of the film.”
One picture of Buster playing baseball on location, in his General hairstyle and garb, has been released, along with a shot of Clyde Bruckman’s script cover. Both are understandably watermarked by the Damfinos to protect their proprietary rights.
Again, to quote from the press release: “The material will be available for viewing in person one time only at this year’s Buster Keaton Convention, Oct. 2-4, 2014, in Muskegon, Michigan. For further information about the convention, visit busterkeaton.com and click on Convention.”
I, for one, can’t wait to see that book.