58: MGM Stories Part 3: Buster Keaton’s Biggest Mistake
In 1928, silent comedy star Buster Keaton made what he would later call “the worst mistake of my career”: against the advice of fellow silent comedy auteurs like Charlie Chaplin, he gave up his independent production shingle and signed a contract with MGM. A vaudevillian who got his start working with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, by the late 1920s Keaton had established himself as a solo writer, director and star who was known for doing his own spectacular but reckless stunts. Keaton joined MGM with a promise from his friend Joe Schenck that nothing would change, only to find himself in his new situation demoted from artistic boss to employee of a corporation interested in protecting its investment above all. The lack of agency and ability to personally control the quality of his own work within the confines of Mayer’s studio drove Keaton to alcoholism, which further doomed his tenure at MGM. Keaton’s experience is perhaps the first major example of an indie filmmaker “selling out” to a big studio, only to be swallowed up by the system.
57: MGM Stories Part 2: Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst, and Citizen Kane
59: MGM Stories Part 4: John Gilbert and Greta Garbo
About The Show
You Must Remember This is a storytelling podcast exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. It’s the brainchild and passion project of Karina Longworth (founder of Cinematical.com, former film critic for LA Weekly), who writes, narrates, records and edits each episode. It is a heavily-researched work of creative nonfiction: navigating through conflicting reports, mythology, and institutionalized spin, Karina tries to sort out what really happened behind the films, stars and scandals of the 20th century.