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Inhospitable WorldCinema in the Time of the Anthropocene$
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Jennifer Fay

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190696771

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190696771.001.0001

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Buster Keaton’s Climate Change

Buster Keaton’s Climate Change

(p.23) Chapter 1 Buster Keaton’s Climate Change
Inhospitable World

Jennifer Fay

Oxford University Press

Much of Buster Keaton’s slapstick comedy revolves around his elaborate outdoor sets and the crafty weather design that destroys them. In contrast to D. W. Griffith, who insisted on filming in naturally occurring weather, and the Hollywood norm of fabricating weather in the controlled space of the studio, Keaton opted to simulate weather on location. His elaborately choreographed gags with their storm surges and collapsing buildings required precise control of manufactured rain and wind, along with detailed knowledge of the weather conditions and climatological norms on site. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) is one of many examples of Keaton’s weather design in which characters find themselves victims of elements that are clearly produced by the off-screen director. Keaton’s weather design finds parallels in World War I strategies of creating microclimates of death (using poison gas) as theorized by Peter Sloterdijk.

Keywords:   Buster Keaton, D. W. Griffith, Way Down East, Peter Sloterdijk, Steamboat Bill, Jr., Seven Chances, modernism, World War I, poison gas

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