As I compose an article on Andre Bazin here is a short excerpt of an interview with Buster Keaton.
Our readers would be very interested to know how you got into motion pictures.
Well, I was born with a show. My parents were already in vaudeville. When I was four years old I became a regular. When I was twenty-one we decided to try another branch of show business and told our representative to see what he could do and he immediately got me signed to the Winter Garden in New York, which was the Schubert’s Theater for “The Passing Show of 1917.”
This was an annual show?
Yes, it always started in the summer and generally ran for, oh, about six months in New York and a year and a half on the road. The Winter Garden was Al Jolson’s home, and the show I was supposed to go in would have starred the Howard Brothers. But anyhow, they signed me for that show and I was walk- ing down Broadway-down along Eighth or some place-and I met an old vaudevillian, and he was with Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle and he told me that he took his make-up off for awhile and was going to try running a mo- tion picture company for Joe Schenck who was producing pictures with Norma Talmadge and Constance Talmadge at the Colony Studio on 48th Street in New York, and that he had just signed Arbuckle from Sennett. And Roscoe asked me if I had ever been in a motion picture, and I said no I hadn’t even been in a studio. And he said, well come on down to the studio Monday and do a scene with me or two and see how you like it. I said, well rehearsals don’t start for another week or so, so I’ll be down. I went down there and I worked in it. The first time I ever walked in front of a motion picture camera-that scene is in the finished motion picture and instead of doing just a bit he carried me all the way through it. (1.)
(1.) Christopher Bishop and Buster Keaton, ‘An Interview with Buster Keaton’, Film Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Autumn, 1958), pp. 15-22, p. 15.