During the era of silent films, comedy was the quintessential genre. Comedians, such as Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, and the hilarious duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy brought both laughs and giggles from audiences across the country. Even though there were numerous silent comedians that were hilarious in their heyday, the debate of who is the best silent comedian of all time often centers around three men: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. I recently came across an article that compared and contrasted the characteristics, styles, performances, and films of each comedian.
This particular article gives a general overview of the movies and “umpteenth internet debate to determine who’s the best comic artist of the silent era,” but it also links to specific articles that give reasons as to why one of the three should be considered the king of silent comedy. Each of the three brings a different aspect to the silent comedy genre: Chaplin’s elegant and refined comedic antics, Keaton’s strong, physical and athletic gags, and Lloyd’s mixture of the two. As people often say, this is one of the hardest debates when it comes to film.
If the final decision was up to me, I would have to declare Buster Keaton as my favorite of the silent film comedians with Harold Lloyd in second and Charlie Chaplin coming in at third.
I would almost always choose to watch a Keaton film over other silent films, including many of Chaplin’s and Lloyd’s. I have never enjoyed the antics of Chaplin and Lloyd as much as I have Keaton’s. Keaton, often referred to as “The Great Stone Face,” blew many people away, including me, with his hilarious and seemingly impossible gags and stunts.
I completely respect Chaplin and Lloyd and enjoy many of their films, but I don’t believe that their films can even compare to the hilarity and expertise of a Buster Keaton picture. This may be a running debate for many years to come, but in my opinion, it is over. Let me know in the comment section who you believe is the best silent film era comedian.