But Buster doesn’t generate the same warmth and affection that Lucille Ball does, and, after much reading and thinking on the subject while traveling the country as a circus clown, I have an idea why . .) the author devotes several chapters to the late Thirties and early Forties, when Buster Keaton, drying out for the final time from the alcoholism that destroyed his career, was relegated to the back lot of MGM studios as a gagman and occasional extra when a scene called for a spectacular pratfall or a reference to Hollywood’s “Golden Age”.
It was a Tinsel Town Siberia for Buster, where the studio paid him a few hundred dollars a month and forgot about him.
That is why he was honored for his genius, and then allowed to sink into poverty and near-obscurity.
Lucille Ball, on the other hand, had her moments in the slapstick sun, but prudently balanced them with tender moments, as a mother, a wife, or a good friend and neighbor.
From him she learned the proper way to do a double-take, where the comedian looks at something but it doesn’t register, and then snaps back to gawk in consternation, fear or anger at whatever it is that he missed the first time.
He taught her to do the spit take – calmly drinking coffee or beer or some other refreshment, only to geyser it out when something untoward occurs.You can see this bizarre act in their audition tape for the “I Love Lucy” Show.It was considered so outrageous by TV executives that the tape was never used during the run of the show.Most purists would say that someone like Buster Keaton was the better of the two, indeed, was the superior of even Chaplin himself.And Keaton and Ball have a shared history at the MGM studios.Ball had learned more from Keaton than Keaton realized.While Keaton was a fantastic figure, a frozen icon, he produced no lasting affection in an audience, especially in a female audience.They danced, were romanced, and married happily ever after.When Ball teamed with her husband, Desi Arnaz, in a nightclub act, she decided to pull out all the stops and go completely physical; while Arnaz stayed the smooth, gracious Cuban, Ball would lope onstage dressed in a baggy suit straight from the Goodwill Store and pretend to be auditioning as the new bass fiddle player.Lucille Ball should have quite a shindig going on for her upcoming birthday this coming August.Her hometown of Jamestown, New York, is planning a celebration, and you can see a Lucy look-alike on the main page of the city’s website at Ball was an outstanding physical comedy actress in her day; highly acclaimed and publicized.