Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century

S. & S. Audio Jan. 2022. 12:11 hrs. ISBN 9781797139975. $23.99. FILM
Stevens’s enthusiasm for her subject and familiarity with her text deliver a truly immersive audio experience. Many listeners will recognize Stevens’s warm, expressive voice from her co-hosting duties on the weekly pop culture podcast Culture Gabfest from Slate, where she has served as film critic since 2006. Film, however, is only the launch pad of this delightful cultural history that radiates from the life and work of actor, writer, and director Buster Keaton. Born in 1895 to a family of vaudevillians, Buster was a prodigy who began performing at age 5. His comedic timing and death-defying stunts that wowed his silent film audiences were born from the Three Keatons’ act, where he had a recurring role as punching bag to his father Joe. After being tossed about for 17 years, Buster exits the vaudeville stage for the film industry. Her extensive research evident, Stevens showcases many colorful characters: actor and director Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, MGM executive Louis B. Mayer, Charlie Chaplin, actor and director Mabel Normand, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Alcoholics Anonymous founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith.
VERDICT This lively cultural history and affectionate tribute to a true film pioneer should have broad appeal.
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