Happy birthday, JFK!

Today marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of the great Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton.

Keaton’s by far our favorite silent comic filmmaker (though we’re fond of Harold Lloyd, too), and we do believe Ms. Cladrite feels the same way.

While enjoying a sojourn in Southern California some years ago, we picked up a book called Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton by John Bengston, which is filled with then-and-now shots of the filming locations used in Buster’s pictures.

Sadly, we didn’t have much time left in LA by the time we tracked down the book, but we did manage to make one pilgrimage, and I was tickled pink to do so.

Perhaps my favorite single moment in any Keaton movie occurs in Cops, a silent short from 1922. In it, Buster’s being chased by dozens, if not hundreds, of policemen, and at one point, he pauses in the middle of the street, seemingly trapped with no way of escape, and, as a car motors by, he calmly reaches out, grab the back end of the car, and, extended horizontally, is whisked away.

It’s a magic moment, like something from a cartoon, but Keaton performed the stunt in real life, not in an animated alternate reality. (To view a short clip of the sequence, click on the image on the right.)

And Bengtson’s exhaustively researched book pinpoints the exact spot—on Cahuenga south of Hollywood Boulevard—where that sequence was filmed. And the missus, bless her heart, snapped this shot of your humble correspondent standing where Buster once stood—all the while keeping an eye out for traffic so that blissful moment was not our last one.

We ask you again, are we not a lucky so-and-so?

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