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Buster Keaton’s Death-Defying Stunts

The silent era’s king of stunts.

The life of a stunt double can be one of danger and life risking performances. Stunts can range anywhere from jumping off high rise buildings to tripping over one’s own feet. However, there’s always an inherent risk involved when doing any kind of stunt. That’s why there are only a handful of actors that do their own stunts. But before there was Tom Cruise or Jackie Chan, there was the king of early stunts: Buster Keaton

Known for his deadpan humor and “stone-faced” delivery, Buster Keaton was a legendary comedian and filmmaker during the age of silent films. Born in 1985 in Kansas, Keaton was originally known as Joseph Frank Keaton IV. He was born into a vaudeville family and started performing when he was only 3-years-old. As a child, Keaton experienced a dangerous fall, but was surprisingly not injured at all. According to “legend,” he was coined the name “Buster” by magician Harry Houdini when he was 18 months old. After falling down a flight of stairs, Houdini picked up Keaton, turned to his parents and said, “That was a real buster!”

This trait of having an unusually high pain tolerance proved to be useful not only for his career in vaudeville but also his career on the big screens. Arguably his most well known stunt was in the film “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” In the performance, he was required to simply stand still, but maybe it wasn’t as “simple” as it sounded. A house façade would have to fall to the ground with him narrowly missing it by positioning himself  right where an open window would be. 

Buster Keaton defies gravity and death with his risky stunts and ultimately left his legacy as a great stuntman on the big screens. Check out the video above to see some of the craziest performances caught on film, including his famous “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” stunt. 

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