Buster Keaton in One Week (1920)
Buster Keaton is known for his stunt work and acrobatic athleticism as much as he is for his perpetual deadpan. Many comedians used their bodies in their craft but actors like Buster and Harold Lloyd took this physicality to another level, often risking (and sustaining) injury as a result. For the iconic scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. where the facade of a house collapses around the film’s oblivious protagonist, many crewmembers had to look away or leave; the possibility that the star could be crushed if his position within the small window had been miscalculated by mere inches was very real.
Buster learned very early in life how potentially dangerous stunts could up the ante on a gag or be the basis for the gag itself, and he used this knowledge to great advantage throughout his independent film career. He was more than willing to go beyond run-of-the-mill pratfalls as long as he was sure that the audience would laugh.
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