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An Amazing Buster Keaton “Find”

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.

Courtesy Of The International Buster Keaton Society

Courtesy Of The International Buster Keaton Society

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to publish a book in the near future, featuring both the photographs and the script, along with other rare, previously unpublished material about the making of the film.”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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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