Digital Services, Film

Rediscovering Buster Keaton: The Cohen Film Collection Restorations

Hello, I’m Peter, the audio-video materials reference librarian. As a child, I discovered silent films when they would be shown on Public Television’s The Silent Years series during the 1970s, Among them was The General, from 1926, considered the masterpiece of comedian Buster Keaton (1895-1966). So impressed was I by this incredible film that I read anything I could find about Keaton and his career at my home library. I added as many of his titles as I could afford, with my paper route earnings, on Super 8 film for my home projector, from the Blackhawk Films mail order catalog. Occasionally, some of his short films would also show up on PBS, but none of his other full-length features, and it wasn’t until the days of home video 20 years later that most of his output started to become available to fans. An amazing body of work it is, holding up better than most comedic films of the era. Unfortunately, many of them only survived in poor or partial condition due to poor storage of the available prints at the time.

Over the years, better quality and more complete prints have been discovered, and many of them are now being released by the Cohen Film Collection in remarkable 4k restorations, compiled from numerous source prints held by various collections to create the most complete versions available of the Keaton features. They are fully restored to pristine condition, with brand new fully orchestrated scores.

Among these impressive new restorations are four features, including Sherlock, Jr. (1924), Seven Chances (1925), Battling Butler (1926), and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928). More will be available over time as restoration work on them is completed. Also available from Cohen is a new documentary from Oscar winning director Peter Bogdonovich, entitled The Great Buster: A Celebration, which collects Keaton’s most famous scenes and stunts, along with a complete biography and footage from throughout his career and interviews with surviving colleagues, including Lloyd Nolan, and fans such as Bill Hader and Mel Brooks. I enjoyed this documentary and learned much I did not previously know about one of my favorite comic actors.

These new restorations are a must for any Keaton fan, and are available for immediate download from the Library, via the digital service Kanopy, which can be easily accessed on the home page of our website. Downloads are immediate with no waiting time, and are automatically returned after seven days. The following link will bring you directly to the many films of Buster Keaton available from Kanopy, including the new 4k restorations from the Cohen Film Collection as well as the excellent documentary and other titles from the incredible career of this iconic comic genius:

To sign up for a Kanopy account through the Library, you will need to enter the email and password connected to your library card, select your home library of Lindenhurst from a drop-down list, and enter your library card barcode. Click here for your library account. If your card has expired, you may click here for a temporary Library card while the Library is closed. For any other issues that arise, please email the Library at for help.

And please remember to tune into my Facebook Live discussion on two of the features available on Kanopy From the new Cohen Film Collection of Buster Keaton 4k feature restorations, on Thursday, July 9, at 6:30 pm. We will be discussing Sherlock, Jr. and Steamboat Bill, Jr., but I would encourage anyone who would like to participate to enjoy the many other available films as well.

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