Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton VI on October 5, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas into a vaudeville family.
Buster's father was Joseph Hallie Keaton, a native of Terre Haute, Indiana and his mother was Myra Edith Cutler. Joe Keaton owned a traveling show with Harry Houdini, the Mohawk Indian Medicine Compnay which performed on stage and sold patent medicine on the side. Buster Keaton happen to born in the small town in Kansas, because that is where the family happen to be touring when she went into labor.
Buster Keaton acquired the nickname "Buster" when he was about six months old. Keaton once said that Harry Houdini was present when young Keaton took a tumble down a long flight of stairs without injury and immediately sat up and shook off his experience. Houdini remarked "That was a real buster."
Buster Keaton began performing with the family in The Three Keatons when he was three years old. His first appearance on stage was in 1899 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Buster Keaton was eventually billed as "The Little Boy Who Can't Be Damaged," with the overall act being advertised as "'The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage." Keaton learned to take trick falls safely and he was rarely injured or bruised on stage. However, the act caused numerous laws to be passed on children preforming in vaudeville.
In February 1917, Keaton met Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle" at the Talmadge Studios in New York City. Buster Keaton had reservations about films. So one day he borrowed a camera, dismantled and reassembled it and now had an understanding on how moving pictures work and requested work.
Buster Keaton made his film debut in 1917 in The Butcher Boy.
Buster Keaton would appear in more than 100 films including The Navigator (1924), The General (1926), Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), Glad Slam Opera (1936), In the Good Old Summertime (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Limelight (1952), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Wolf (1963) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966).
Buster Keaton was also a talented director and made his directorial debut in The Rough House (1917). He would either be the primary director or an uncredited director in 42 films including The Haunted House (1921), The General (1926), Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), Grand Slam Opera (1936), Streamlined Swing (1938), In the Good Old Summertime (1949), and The Railrodder (1965),
Buster Keaton also was a talented writer. He would write scripts or participate in writing scripts for 29 films including The Rough House (1917), The Haunted House (1921), The Electric House (1922), The General (1926), A Night at the Opera (1935), Too Hot to Handle (1938), and a Southern Yankee (1948).
Buster Keaton would also appear in numerous television shows like Route 66, Playhouse 90, and The Twilight Zone.
In 1960, Buster Keaton received the Honorary Academy Award of Lifetime Achievement.
Buster Keaton also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movie and one for television.
Most of his films were considered lost until 1952. While remodeling his home, actor James Mason discovered several reels of Keaton's "lost" films (Mason had purchased Keaton's Hollywood mansion) and immediately recognized their historical significance. He took upon himself the responsibility for their preservation.
Although he did now see active combat, he did serve in World War I and was injured and became hearing impaired.
His father Joe Keaton appeared in several of Buster's films including The General (1926). His mother would appear as an extra in some of his films including The Electric House (1922).
Buster Keaton died on February 1, 1966 of lung cancer. The same day as his co-star in The Slippery Pearls (1931), Speak Easily (1932) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), Hedda Hopper.