Buster Keaton, the Little Iron Man
Main Page The Little Iron Man The General

I just received the following email message.

Subject: Oliver Scott
From: "Paul Wratten"
Date: Sun, January 01, 2012 7:48 am
To: "rjbuffalo@rjbuffalo.com"
Cc: "– – – – –"

Hi Ranjit

It is with deep regret I have to inform you Oliver (Olly to those who knew him) passed away on xmas eve 2011 of a heart attack, after a fairly long period of not very good health.

Olly was a musician, raconteur, humourist, Busterphile to the extreme and a dear friend to those who knew him well. He could be abrasive, sometimes sharp but always deep. He is missed by his friends and family and his passing leaves a hole that won’t be filled again.

Where this leaves the Little Iron Man we’re not sure at the moment, but I think it’s safe to say it will be re-issued — how and when yet to be decided. I’m cc’ing this email to Ed, Olly’s brother who may be able to shed further light in a while but at at the moment we’re all reeling from Olly’s sudden death. I think it’s safe to say we see The Little Iron Man as an important part of Olly’s legacy, and an important piece of Keatoniana. All proceeds of sales of his book in future will go to his beloved daughter Domi.

Can you please pass this information onto the Keaton Chronicle and newsgroup and any other interested forums and organisations. Any correspondence or condolences should be sent to Ed his brother at – – – – –.

So sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. We’re still grieving his loss.

Paul

PS Love your stuff on Red Mole as well. I was fortunate enough to see them myself a few times in the late 70’s and was left with a lasting impression as well.

Bad news. We shall see what we shall see. In the meantime, below is the web page exactly as it appeared in the past, except that I have deleted his contact information, which is, of course, now useless.


Hello Everyone,

Back in 1995 The Keaton Chronicle announced the publication of a new book, Buster Keaton, the Little Iron Man, compiled by Oliver Scott and endorsed by Eleanor Keaton herself. It was tempting. Then Geraldine Hawkins gave it a mouth-watering review, and I just had to get a copy. But it was simply out of my budget. When finally (almost by accident) I got the paperback edition, I regretted having put off my purchase to begin with. It is, without any doubt, the most thorough, encyclopedic, informative, and accurate book about Buster ever produced. Currently I’m saving my pennies for a nice hardcover edition.

All in all, that’s why I was surprised and delighted and flabbergasted a short while ago when Olly Scott contacted me, saying that he was impressed by my little writeup on The General. So we got to chatting via email and I offered to upgrade his advertisement for the book. So I asked him to do for his book essentially what his book did for Buster; namely, to spell out the contents and credentials in detail. Hope it whets your appetite. Yes, I have praised this book before (see above-mentioned site as well as posts to the Buster Keaton Fans newsgroup), but now I can do a little more for a work that I feel every Busterphile should have and read.

Yes, it’s pricey, but that’s simply because it’s largely hand-made and unsubsidized. Worth every penny, though, and then some. Enjoy!

—Ranjit Sandhu
Buffalo, New York
Saturday, 25 January 2003


Buster Keaton,
The Little Iron Man

The chronologically arranged collected quotations of Buster Keaton,
interspersed with quotations from other eye witnesses,
notably Eleanor Keaton.

Edited by Oliver Lindsey Scott
(Published on October 4, 1995)

Hi, lets start with a nice pic of Buster Keaton.

Anyway, my name is Olly Scott, and I publish the largest body of text by Buster—and Eleanor—Keaton ever collected and printed. The result, copiously illustrated, weighing over 2 kilos, is hand bound in black buckram and heavy board with a gold tooled spine, etc. It is a book about which Eleanor Keaton said:

Oliver Scott’s Buster Keaton—The Little Iron Man is extremely well written and researched, and aside from being very informative and amusing, it’s a great reference book. It differs from all other biographies, where there is fiction involved; but you didn’t do that, it is accurate and true.

ELEANOR KEATON (From Hollywood, 9 June 1996)
[My proudest posession]

Reason This Book Is Necessary

What it all comes down to is that except for a four- or five-year period in the early 1930’s, Buster was a very fulfilled happy man all his life. But when you read different things by different people he dissolves into a sad, unhappy, poor lump of nothing (Eleanor Keaton, 1993).

In other words, no biography has yet dealt with Buster Keaton the human being, as opposed to Buster Keaton the human mop. This book is designed to be a foil against which any other works on Buster may be checked, and also as a true first reader for those who have never read a book about Buster Keaton before.



How I Came to Assemble This Book

(Adapted from the Afterword)

Buster Keaton, the Little Iron Man is the product of 24 years of frustration. At eighteen I attended a Buster Keaton Film Festival, starting with Our Hospitality and the short, The Playhouse. I was hooked instantly. I did my best to see all the films on the programme, and was fully satisfied with the cinematic value for money received. I found the features to be engrossing stories, creditably acted and very gripping, and the shorts fascinatingly inventive. And of course, they were funny. Further, I found they left an indelible taste in my mind. I very much wanted to see them all again, and so began my frustration.

For many years I could not see any of them again, and since then, only some and only occasionally, even since video seemed to make it an easy possibility. So while I was waiting I attempted to quell my frustration somewhat by reading all the books that had been written about him. Sad to say this only increased my frustration. For a start they all reduce the last thirty years of his life to a mere afterthought, as if this part of a biography were unimportant. Secondly it soon became clear that the man portrayed in one could not be the same man as that portrayed by another. Buster’s own My Wonderful World of Slapstick was lots of fun, but very reticent on some things, and totally absent in some areas. All other writers seemed to impose their own personality upon the subject. Finally I got fed up with the whole thing and started collecting all the interviews Buster gave, et cetera, into chronological order. Then I got permission from Buster’s widow to finish the job by editing the result as I saw fit, including permission to interview her at length to cover all the missing bits of the story, as far as her knowledge allowed. Every part of this work has been approved and checked by her. This book is the result. If I have any frustration remaining at all, it is that the interviewers of Buster all asked essentially the same questions, so where many aspects of some films and particular stunts are covered copiously, some films, e.g. Battling Butler, are hardly touched upon. Even so, this is the book I was looking for when first I went looking for a biography of Buster Keaton. It is in fact his autobiography. As far as I am aware no other biography has ever been collated in this way, that is, without a narrative inserted by the biographer, including interpretations of the subject’s personality and motivations which the author usually has no right to infer, let alone put forward as fact. I have avoided this as much as possible and I have also avoided inserting my opinion into the text throughout the book.

As to Buster’s importance as a cinematic artist, or even as a low comedian, I feel it to be patently clear that there is no similar cinematic achievement to compare it with. It is unique, and an art treasure so far ahead of the competition that it will always be relevant to the cinematic arts. Though I would rather be able to offer you the complete refurbished cinematic works of Buster Keaton, all I have to offer you is this book.

I hope you like it.


Method of Collection

To include any and every word Buster said that has been reliably recorded in any way (usually print), shuffling same into chronological order, removing least interesting repeats. To explain: Where two sentences have the same meaning, the most colorful was chosen. Where two sentences have the same meaning but the least colorful has extra words, those words are added to the most colorful sentence. Every word that could reasonably be kept was kept. I have punctuated the result as I saw fit, usually retaining any printed punctuation. Some few sentences Eleanor, or the facts, repudiated have been removed or corrected, usually due to their being spurious additions.

For all that I tried to explain why the book is made this way, some of the feedback indicates I was not sufficiently clear. The reason the book was needed is that none of the biographers so far has been satisfied with the unvarnished truth, but Buster was, Eleanor was, and so should we be. To spread fictions, when even the facts are nigh incredible, is an insult to Buster’s memory.

I believe the reason Buster has been singled out for such mistreatment is the essential simplicity and directness of his nature. I really cannot bring to mind a comparable miscarriage of biographical justice. Why the biographers (who theoretically knew most of the information contained here) should portray Buster as a “sad, unhappy, poor lump of nothing”... “starving in the gutter” instead of the strong and caring successful person that he actually was is either beyond my wit, or beneath my contempt.

Also, the attempt by various schools and individuals to claim Buster as their own is both widespread and confusing, and the general agreement that Buster was not a happy man after the end of his stardom was so entrenched, and so thoroughly at odds with Buster’s view (plus other misconceptions mainly due to confusing his screen persona with his real one) that I became angry that fiction could be presented as fact, when the facts themselves were available, if only in a widely dispersed form. I felt that Buster’s own view of his life had been discredited and trivialised by the opinions of others, and that this was an artistic tragedy, a heinous distortion of the life, and therefore work, of the creator of one of humanity’s most divine art treasures. The case for the prosecution has been widely, variously, inaccurately and often put; so I collected the case for the defence, in order that anybody wishing to express opinions at odds with the testimony of Buster and Eleanor as collected in The Little Iron Man will have to explain in detail why they disagree, and so the general reader has a place to get the real story, preferably before reading any others. I do not say that this will stop the further spread of fictions, just that there is now a collected body of Buster’s testimony to check against.

Let me stress that I saw my role as a strict follower of the evidence and no more. I was not looking to put Buster in the best possible light (like a paid character witness) because the truth is Buster’s defence; it is always the defence of the innocent. I am only the assembler of a large (and in my opinion unique and fascinating) jig-saw puzzle. I can take no credit for the picture revealed by this process, that was made by Buster, with his life.

MORE REVIEWS AND TESTIMONIALS

I can’t say enough good things about your book! The unique idea behind it makes it an absolutely invaluable resource! How wonderful to have all of Buster’s words arranged to cover his whole life! Make that Buster’s and Eleanor’s words, because it’s if anything even more unique to have this lady’s first-hand views documented. You have no idea how often I refer back to it to look up information on any given topic.... You should be very proud of a fine job. I’m sure the price has discouraged more than a few customers, but to my mind it was worth every penny and more. Next to the films themselves, your volume has to be the ultimate monument to the work, talent and sensibilities of my hero, the unbeatable Buster! The Crown Jewel of my collection.

Tom Bertino [hardback owner No. 1.] (California)


I must say that I am totally overwhelmed! Although you provided dimensions, for some reason I was not expecting the book to be quite the size of a huge encyclopedia. A wonderful piece of quality work... [P]eople would be foolish not to order; at the price you’re offering it the book is a complete steal. The various little finishing touches just confirm your committment to pleasing your customer. I hereby offer my endorsement and recommendation....

Steven Lederman [harback owner] (Toronto)


The methodology employed throughout this magnificent work is unique; Mr. Scott allows the narrative to flow through the voices of those most closely associated with Mr. Keaton. The voices tell the story of Buster’s life in their own idioms, with their own impressions, senses and opinions. The cumulative effect of this continuous multiple narrative is stunning: more than anything else, the work is alive with these voices—and, through them, Keaton himself emerges. Keaton is in fact the central voice of the text. As a consequence the book has the immediacy and realism of a Ken Burns documentary.

The unique approach should not obscure what is essentially an exhaustive reference work on Keaton’s life and work. More than anything else the work represents a single reference source of information on virtually every aspect of Keaton’s life. As such it is an invaluable resource for film libraries and film scholars. All in all a wonderful book.

Rick Levinson [hardback owner] (Toronto, by coincidence)


THE FOLLOWING LETTER IS FROM McFARLAND AND COMPANY, INC. PUBLISHERS:

My company is strong in reference and scholarly performing arts titles. I see hundreds of books a year. Granted comprehensiveness, we’ve always focussed heavily on the logic, orderliness, design, function etc., of the presentation. Almost military-ish. Straight lines. Then Oliver Scott’s large BUSTER KEATON drops on us. Sinuosity in every direction. Reminding us that books can break out in every way and be art, and even that information can be artful. This object that Mr. Scott has fabricated—with the focus of a medieval monk, the intellect of a predator, a confident style, an eccentric righteousness and a my-way-or-no-way drive—is worth every penny for its large and heavy bookness-as-art and as for Buster Keaton diehards, one can only say: This is the culmination.

It is a thoroughly well-formed work of art that would be ruined if run through the mill of “regular” publishing. Of that I am convinced.

All the best good luck to you,

Sincerely,
Robert Franklin
President
[Rejection letter]


Thank you for sending me the new revised index for your Little Iron Man. I loved it. I especially liked Keaton’s Laws, Rules and Observations. You have put your whole soul into the book, index, etc. and you haved produced a masterpiece in my opinion. It is fantastic.

J. R. Gonyo [softback owner] (Michigan)


Do let me add my endorsement of The Little Iron Man, really a wealth of information, especially about Buster’s post-MGM life/work, and interesting words from Olly on some Buster-related issues at the end. The book isn’t a case of a drooling fanboy trying to beatify his hero—Olly really stays out of it and lets Buster and the people who knew him give the testimony—but you will definitely come out of it liking and admiring Keaton more than ever, I know I did. At any rate, check it out. If I can afford it, you can too!

M. V. Burke (Indiana)


HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK REVIEW
THAT GERALDINE HAWKINS PUBLISHED IN
THE KEATON CHRONICLE, WINTER 1995/1996:

Oliver Scott’s Buster Keaton, the Little Iron Man might have been titled “The Keaton Encyclopedia”: it is a thorough, well-researched and comprehensive look at Keaton’s life, work and influence. One could hardly do better than to peruse this idiosyncratic, engaging volume.

His labor of love (and very loving book) might also have been called “Buster According to Eleanor.” Everything Scott could find that was ever written or said about Keaton, he checked against Mrs. Keaton’s knowledge and memory. This serves as a valuable corrective to nearly everything else published about Keaton. His wife’s version often differs from that of Keaton’s biographers: “Joe Keaton was a sweet, wonderful man... the only problem was his drinking; and when he suddenly decided to dry out and didn’t drink anymore he was perfectly amiable to be around; he was a darling man, and the kids loved him; and I presume Myra did too; she never got around to divorcing him....” Both Scott and Mrs. Keaton take Tom Dardis and Alan Schneider to task (Marion Meade’s effort had not yet been published) for over-interpretation, misinterpretation, and inaccuracy....

The biographer lets the subject tell his own story, through interviews and published memoirs. Most important, his is the first book since the seminal work of Rudi Blesh to do justice to the spirit and character of Keaton. “This book would have been impossible for me to do if I had not found Buster thoroughly likeable. Further, I would have given up at the first sign of lying on the part of Buster or Eleanor. I am happy to say that this proved a baseless fear. I doubt that I shall ever do another biography of an entertainment figure, because it seems that nearly every time I read about one of my artistic heroes, they turn out to be disappointments of one sort or another. In Buster... we have a human being that can only be described as a nice person. To a modern art audience, the idea that a great artist can be both sane and a nice person is almost anathema. The idea that craziness and unpleasant personal habits is a necessary norm of great artists seems to be taught in schools. Buster is not like that. He is, for the scandal seeker, boringly heterosexual and monogamous. He was a man, not flawless but honorable, gentle, kind, shy, self-effacing, supportive, reliable, courageous, loyal, generous, honest, and essentially simple and at home with the real world.”


THE ENCYCLOPEDIA KEATONIANA
By George Wead

When I first saw the book I wanted it, and that was that. The price didn’t deter me. I got it. It clearly has material that no other source provides. And from my point of view The Little Iron Man has no weaknesses. It took me a while to get used to the different print faces, but the format is a good one: it helps me distinguish voices. And once it becomes familiar, the layout adds a kind of symphonic quality to the experience: one font for strings, another for woodwinds... enter the brass in boldface... that sort of pleasure. Mainly, the book did not contradict what I have learned of Keaton or his circle, and your research has opened up a great deal of information I did not know. Your work is encyclopedic in a way that no other Keaton work is. It is the Encyclopedia Keatoniana, aka Little Iron Man.


AND HERE’S A REVIEW THAT APPEARED IN THE LISTENER:


SPECIAL LIMITED OFFER

Because doubt has been expressed in certain quarters as to the value of the book, even though it is sold at somewhat less than cost price, and to celebrate Ranjit’s kindness towards the book, the following offer is made. The first person to contact and confirm, may get a copy by sending $50 US dollars (the cost of binding and postage, minus printing costs), and will receive the book for that price, on condition that he/she,

A.) write and tell us afterwards how he/she enjoyed the book, and

B.) after reading it, if the customer feels that the book is actually worth the price asked normally, he/she should then, in all honesty, pay that extra cost ($80 US).

TO ORDER YOUR OWN COPY

There are three ways to send the money:

O. L. Scott
- ------ -----
-------
Christchurch  8001
NEW ZEALAND

Tel: (+-- -) --- ----
email -------@clear.net.nz

So far, no customer who has done this has had any trouble.

In all cases please e-mail the details to me at -------@clear.net.nz.

Once this money is received I shall proudly wrap and post you your book.

Our motto at Buster Books is “Any book you like as long as it’s The Little Iron Man.”

If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to ask.

I remain, yours faithfully

Olly
[Proper name Oliver Lindsey Scott, aka Buster Books.]
My Phone number is Christchurch, --- ----, New Zealand.

My other pursuits are music and making a “Children’s Hands-On Toy Museum and Library.” Pics and music available on request. Above addresses apply.

Bye for now...