the talmadge sisters


Constance Talmadge and her ridiculously cute face in “East Is West” (1922)  dir. by Sydney Franklin

This was considered a lost film for decades until a copy was found in the Netherlands in 2005. It has been restored although about 13 minutes of it were damaged beyond restoration, the gaps have been filled in with explanatory title cards.

The unsung heroes: Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts (February 2, 1871 – October 28, 1923) was an American comic actor, who appeared in 16 of Buster Keaton’s 19 silent short films of the 1920s.

“Big Joe” Roberts, as he was known in vaudeville, toured the country with his first wife, Lillian Stuart Roberts as part of a rowdy act known as Roberts, Hays, and Roberts. Their signature routine was called “The Cowboy, the Swell and the Lady.”

At this time, in the first decade of the twentieth century, Buster Keaton’s father, Joe Keaton, had started a summer Actors’ Colony for vaudevillians between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake in Michigan. Roberts became acquainted with the Keaton family as a member of this community.

When Buster Keaton’s film apprenticeship years with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle came to an end, and Keaton began making his own shorts in 1920, he asked Roberts to join him. Roberts’ hefty 6'3" frame, usually playing a menacing heavy or authority figure, made a striking and amusing contrast to the thin, 5'6" Keaton.

IMDB shows that Roberts made only two films without Keaton. He played the role of “Roaring Bill” Rivers in 1922’s The Primitive Lover,starring Constance Talmadge—Keaton’s sister-in-law—and the silent film actor Harrison Ford; and a drill master in the Clyde Cook comedy The Misfit,released in March 1924, after Roberts’ death.

When Keaton began making feature films in 1923, he apparently intended to continue working with Roberts. Roberts had roles in Keaton’s Three Ages and Our Hospitality (both 1923). During the filming of the second feature, Roberts had a stroke but insisted on returning to the set to finish the film. After completion, Roberts suffered another stroke and died shortly afterwards.

Sources: Wikipedia / Youtube (The Goat 1921)
GIFs by me

Buster, Constance, Natalie, their mother Peg, and “Dinky” visit Norma on the set of “The Eternal Flame”, 1922.

The women were left to fend for themselves after their alcoholic father abandoned the family. Norma and Constance began modeling in their teens and turned to acting, Natalie had small parts in movies, but Buster first met her while she was working as a script girl at Comique, the production company owned by her brother-in-law Joseph Schenck, Norma’s husband.

It’s said that Peg had a sharp wit–and tongue–and had not wanted a slapstick comedian as a husband for Natalie.

In her eyes, did any man ever measure up to be worthy of her daughters?

Constance was married four times. Norma, three.

After divorcing Buster, Natalie never remarried.

Did this tight-knit group of women keep him an outsider?