The Strange World of Silent Film

Buster Keaton in The Gene 001Filmmakers could get away with quite a lot in the silent film era. Censorship was in its infancy and pretty much powerless, meaning directors could do as they pleased. These things included letting stars have fist fights in the sky, on-screen drug abuse and having a pretty rudimentary attitude to health & safety procedures.

All of this led to pretty crazy moments like…

Dropping a house on a film star

Perhaps the greatest stuntman who ever lived, Buster Keaton, was a notorious daredevil, regularly risking death for no other reason than because he could, or because he had a death wish. Keaton’s most famous stunt involved the two-ton weight of the front of a house being dropped on the impassible star.

Saved by the vacant attic window, Keaton had precisely two inches to the left of his shoulders and above his head to spare. Had he stood slightly off his marker or if there had been a sudden gust of wind, he would surely have been crushed to death. Some crew members refused to watch, fearing Keaton had gone too far while Keaton for his own part maintained afterwards that he didn’t care if the house hit him or not.