Q: The Kansas Silent Film Festival runs today (FRI) and tomorrow (SAT) at Washburn University's White Concert Hall in Topeka. (Admission is FREE!) One of the biggest stars of the silent film era was Buster Keaton, who was born right here in Kansas. Do you know where? Give us the name of Buster Keaton's birthplace.
A: Piqua (in Woodson County)
Buster Keaton, as he was known professionally, was born Joseph Frank Keaton in Piqua, Kansas, in 1895. He was an actor, comedian, film director, producer, screenwriter and stunt performer. Best known for his silent films, Keaton was a master of physical comedy. His consistently stoic, deadpan expression earned him the nickname "The Great Stone Face."
Movie critic Roger Ebert once wrote about Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929" when he "worked without interruption" on a series of films that make him "the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies." That's pretty high praise for a kid born into a vaudeville family in a small southeast Kansas town.
Many of Keaton's films from the 1920s remain highly regarded. Keaton, an Academy Award winner, was recognized as the seventh-greatest film director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. The American Film Institute ranked him in 1999 as the 21st greatest male star of classic Hollywood cinema. He died in 1966.
Keaton wasn't the only silent film star with a connection to Kansas. Flapper, actress and sex symbol Louise Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kansas, and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was born in Smith Center, Kansas.
Fun factoid: Buster Keaton served in World War I, where he suffered an ear infection that permanently impaired his hearing.
The 23rd annual Kansas Silent Film Festival will be held today (FRI) and tomorrow (SAT) at Washburn's White Concert Hall in Topeka. Admission is free!
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