I don’t know why, but for some reason, film-buffs of every age feel compelled to continue the decades old debate: Who’s funnier: Charles Chaplin or Buster Keaton?
There’s only one answer to this question: Who cares? However, since I am nothing if not opinioned, I must weigh in on behalf of The Great Stone Face, Joseph “Buster” Keaton.
For this essay, I have chosen to compare and contrast Chaplin’s 1921 feature The Kid with Buster Keaton’s 1928 feature Steamboat Bill, Jr.
At its core, Chaplin’s The Kid is a purely Dickensian tale of poverty, despair and, ultimately, life’s strange twists and turns. Wherein Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. clearly models itself on the classic Mark Twain paradigm of a young man coming into his own, surrounded by paddle boats and nature itself, human or otherwise. Chaplin’s link to Dickens clearly was born in his upbringing as a young English relative-orphan. Keaton, on the other hand, born in Kansas and forced to travel and live by his wits, led an almost Huckleberryian existence.
This distinction between the two great clowns matters little, as I have a sneaking suspicion that you, Mr. Fjelstul, really don’t read these papers in the first place. Instead, you probably just sit at home on a broken sofa, eating chicken out of a bucket, drinking your gin from a souvenir mug you got on a trip you took with your ex-wife to Carlsbad Caverns. In which case, I will now stretch and fill until I reach the necessary minimum of 300 hundred words. I still have a little ways to go. I’m at 271 right about now. Nope. Now I’m at 280. This is so easy to get extra points. My favorite ice cream is Rocky Road. 296. And now I’m done.