Buster Keaton, “The Bell Boy”: Film History Series

Buster Keaton: “The Bell Boy”, 1918, Silent Film

“The Bell Boy” is a 1918 American two-reel silent comedy film produced by the Comique Film Company. It was written by actor and director Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle with starring roles by Arbuckle and Buster Keaton as bell boys in the Elk’s Head Hotel. The cinematography was done by Elgin Lessley, an American hand-crank cameramen of the silent film era,  and cameraman George Peters. “The Bell Boy” was released by Paramount Pictures on March 18, 1918 with a running length of thirty-three minutes. 

Much of the material in the film was later re-used by Buster Keaton in his 1937 “Love Nest On Wheels”, one of the rare films in which Keaton appeared onscreen with his family, with whom he had performed on the vaudeville stage. The mop sequence in the film was reused by Keaton in his last film appearance in the 1966 comedy short “The Scribe”, filmed shortly before his death from lung cancer on February 1, 1966. 

Buster Keaton was recognized as the seventh-greatest film director by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 and the American Film Institute ranked him in 1999 as the 21st greatest male star of the classic Hollywood cinema. Keaton was presented in 1959 with an Academy Honorary Award to celebrate his achievements in the film industry. 

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