“In 1964, Buster Keaton was offered the most serious role of his career. Samuel Beckett was working on his only screenplay—a short film called Film depicting a character who, like a cockroach, seems terrified of being seen. Beckett calls this character “O” for being the “Object” of “E,” the “Eye” of the camera that’s obsessively following him. Beckett first wanted Chaplin but finally turned to Keaton, whose Great Stone Face and hapless but intrepid character have often been compared to Beckett. The playwright had previously asked Keaton to play the beleaguered slave Lucky in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot, but Keaton, bewildered by the script, turned him down. The new DVD also includes the memorable 1961 television version of Waiting for Godot, directed by Alan Schneider, with two great comic actors, Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith, performing Beckett’s existential vaudeville.”
The sequence that is considered the most expensive shot in the Silent Era is the climactic train crash in Buster Keaton’s epic comedy “The General”. At $42,000 (in 1927 dollars), the cost was more than 10% of the film’s budget. Because this was a time before CGI, Keaton, shooting in Oregon, took a real locomotive, a real bridge and set up multiple cameras. He then lit the bridge on fire, yelled “action” and captured the wreck on film all in one take.