Section One

Zoomify requires Flash Player 9; if unable to zoom into image, download the latest Flash Player
Buster Keaton L’Opérateur (The Cameraman)
Buster Keaton
Jean A. Mercier, c. 1928

Film comedian Buster Keaton is both behind the camera and in the spotlight in this image, made by French poster designer Jean-Albert Mercier at a time when Keaton claimed his silent movies actually did a bigger business in Europe than in America. This poster for Keaton’s movie The Cameraman attracts attention with brilliant colors and clever geometric stylization of forms.

But it also advertises the latest film by incorporating two of the actor’s trademarks: the deadpan, expressionless face and a lively chase scene pitting the agile human figure against relentless mechanical forces. The latter is suggested by a circle of sketches expressing speed and motion in a never-ending contest. In Keaton’s movies, James Agee wrote in his 1949 appraisal of silent film comics, “it seems that the whole universe is in exquisite flying motion and the one point of repose is [Keaton’s] effortless, uninterested face.”