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Spoof Goofs

March 07, 1993

Regarding "No Silence of the Hams," by Patrick Goldstein (Feb. 14):

I'm glad Goldstein included a reference to Buster Keaton in his article on Hollywood's current feverish affection for film parodies. Keaton was an early master of the spoof genre; his deadpan approach to comedy was perfect for this type of entertainment and was obviously a big influence on the current crop of cinema parodists (Jim Abrahams and the Zucker boys, Carl and Rob Reiner, Joel and Ethan Coen, to name a few).

As early as 1918, in "Moonshine," a two-reeler he made with Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, Keaton was mercilessly spoofing the overly florid style of stage melodrama. He later parodied the excessively stolid Western star William S. Hart in "The Frozen North" and Charlie Chaplin's sappy attitude toward his leading ladies in "Go West" (in which Keaton's love interest was played by a cow).

However, Goldstein is incorrect when he says Keaton's Civil War comedy "The General" was first intended as a parody of D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation." Although Keaton did parody Griffith's "Intolerance" in his first independently produced feature, "The Three Ages," "The General" was never intended as a parody, having been inspired by the book "The Great Locomotive Chase," based on an actual event from the war.

JIM KLINE

Lakewood

Kline is the author of the forthcoming book "The Complete Films of Buster Keaton" (Citadel Press).

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