For comic artistry on film, he was second only to Chaplin -- and not a few critics even reverse that positioning. Buster Keaton, through a handful of full-length silent comedies and two handfuls of two-reelers, proved the most cleverly acrobatic and purely balletic of all the silent comedians. When the sound era arrived, his jump from acting and directing with full artistic control to becoming a hired hack and gag-man at MGM was as quick as it was tragic, with alcohol a secondary factor in ruining a great career. Nonetheless, a second marriage, lots of TV and movie guest work, and a lucrative deal with Hollywood for his autobiography allowed Keaton to live his final years in peace and comfort.
There's more to that story, of course, than the above outline conveys, of course -- especially the pratfalls, gimmicks and grace Keaton brought to his stone-faced film persona. Assumedly, that's what writer-performer Scott Nankivel will highlight in his solo turn, Cut to the Chase (The Life of Buster Keaton), playing Aug. 17-27 at the Harry De Jur Playhouse as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.
Nankivel has already essayed the role of Keaton in Anne Bogart's American Silents, where he recreated some of the classic bits from such films as "The Navigator, "Sherlock Jr." and "The General."
Presented by Cold Productions, Cut to the Chase plays at the Harry De Jur Playhouse, 466 Grand Street at Pitt Street. For tickets ($12) and information call (212) 420-8877.