Bartine Burkett and that ukulele

I’ve just finished watching the 1921 film, The High Sign, which was the first film that Buster Keaton wrote and directed. In that film, the leading lady, Ms Burkett, played ukulele — in a silent film no less, and gave a good impression that she knew what she was doing. If you’d like to see the film, it is here.

If you’d like to know more about Ms Bartine Zane (married name) you can’t do much better than looking here. The link has Mrs Zane’s account of her time working with Mr. Keaton and there are two photos of Bartine, Buster and the ukulele.

Published in: on September 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ukulele Ike helps save Buster Keaton from bust up

The Pittsburgh Press of 5 Feb 1931 recounts a sad tale of Ms Kathleen Keys and Buster Keaton.

Ms Keys, a silent movie actor on hard times now the talkies had arrived, told Mr Keaton that she was short on cash. Buster said that, if she lost some weight, she’d do well in the movies again.  She bet Buster $500 that she could take off 20 pounds (that’s about 9 kilograms) in 10 days — [don’t try this at home].

Well, Ms Keys came back in 10 days 6 pounds (2.7 kg) lighter, and Buster says he gave her the money anyway. Ms Keys made a photostat copy of the cheque, it seems, to blackmail Mr Keaton for more money — $4000 more — as it probably would not look good if it were known that the married Keaton was giving money to a woman not his wife (according to Wikipedia, Ms Keys and Mr Keaton had been friendlier than they ought to have been, anyway). Buster said that he’d give her $5000 if she’d just go away (“to China or some place”). When she arrived for the money, instead of $5000, she wanted $20000 — boats to China must have been expensive. Mr Keaton there upon ripped up the $5000 cheque, and Ms Keys ripped up Buster and his MGM dressing room.

Cliff Edwards, friend to Buster Keaton and fellow ukulele player, was the one who called the studio police, and Buster was saved from a worse bust-up. We only have the story from the scratched and bruised Mr Keaton, as Ms Keys laughed the story off, and Mr Keaton refused to press charges.

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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