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Legend has it that “Buster” Keaton was given his monicker by Harry Houdini after he saw the young vaudevillian Joe Keaton being knocked around and taking pratfalls in his family stage act. Keaton always had a fondness for magic, and in 1936 he did a short two-reeler called Mixed Magic. The little known film, which can be difficult to track down, had Buster playing a magician’s assistant. The movie was a talkie and made after Buster’s great silent films of the twenties.

Frankly, the movie is not very good. I spent most of the time while watching lamenting the lost comic opportunities that Buster would have taken in the early days. There he is, Buster backstage, holding onto a stage curtain rope, trying to save his sweetheart up in the flies; think of the great daring acrobatic, athletic possibilities that Buster would have taken advantage of in the golden era. But they never happen. Instead there are just anemic cutaway shots that make me shake my head. Well, to be fair, there are actually a couple of good laughs, and those interested in magic and magicians will be especially interested in the posters and apparatus depicted. So with those limitations in mind, take a look at Buster Keaton in Mixed Magic.

You can buy the complete Lost Keaton series at: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Keaton-Sixteen-1934-1937-Blu-ray/dp/B006P5KEOQ/