Chaplin saw his as a site of sentimental triumph of

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things of the world. Chaplin saw his as a site of sentimental triumph, of the cleverness of the FIGURE 2.4 A house falls on Buster Keaton. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Charles Reisner, Buster Keaton, 1928). See also Figures 3.22 and 6.10
“little guy,” conquering odds and winning the heart of a simple woman. Image making for him provided the vehicle to carry his character of the Tramp through misadventures to redemption and the triumph over class, from despair to a measure of self-possession. He wanted all this to take place in a world whose presence was immediate and apparently unmediated. He wanted his audience’s hearts. But we can find a delightful paradox when we compare Chaplin with Keaton that makes the parallels with Méliès even more interesting. As much as he liked to work his gags in the middle of the ongoing, outside world, Keaton, like Méliès, also understood how he could manipulate the components of the shot to best effect. Keaton liked to make the artificiality of the image part of the joke of his films. In The Play House (1921), Keaton plays with multiple exposure, performing an entire vaudeville act by himself, with himself as every member of the audience. In Sherlock, Jr . (1924), Keaton is a movie projectionist who dreams himself into the screen, into the image, and is overcome by its conjuries. Scenes change, the weather changes, the flow of images confuses him and causes him to take pratfalls. This sequence in Sherlock, Jr . is among the great statements and admissions of how artificial the film image actually is. Keaton, in all his films, is either doing or being undone by things that happen around him. Objects and people in the image conspire; Buster flees and then cleverly gets the better of them. In Sherlock, Jr ., he is conspired against by the very medium in which he works. The image itself turns against him. Chaplin, however, appears as the master of the image and intends to subdue it to his comic persona. He tends to battle people more than things, as Keaton does, or use things for simple, heart-tugging comic effect, as when he sticks a fork in two rolls and makes them perform a ballet or delicately eats his shoe in The Gold Rush (1925). THE GROWTH OF CORPORATE FILMMAKING Together, Chaplin and Keaton indicate what is happening as filmmaking grows to industrial proportions and, in the course of that growth, reconciles or fudges the boundaries between illusion, realism, audience response, and corporate need. Both very independent filmmakers, their styles reflected and incorporated the complex, sometimes contradictory parts of art and commerce that would form filmmaking both in America and abroad. Even their professional careers pointed to the directions in which filmmaking moved in the 1920s. Late in the 1920s, Keaton, who successfully operated his own production company, signed with MGM, already one of the giants among film studios. By doing so, by signing with a studio that developed and promoted the producer system in which the director had only a small role, Keaton lost much of his creative control and creative edge. The films he made for MGM were

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