Dear Movies Silently, Who is better? Chaplin or Keaton?

I’ve had this video cooking for a while now and the recent flare-up of Chaplin vs. Keaton emotion makes this a good time to post it. I realize that many of the culprits are eager young fans but the sooner we get them socially housebroken, the better off we all will be. (Though I think there is a 73% chance that someone is not going to watch the video and will skip to the comments to declare their preference while bashing the other party.)

In case I am not clear in the video, randomly crashing a discussion about either comedian by loudly proclaiming that you dislike them and that (insert name) is better… Well, it’s like going up to a girl scout selling cookies and telling her that you prefer, say, a Snickers bar to her Thin Mints. You may have a point and you certainly have the right to your preferences but you still look like an oaf.

Obviously, there are ways of stating preference and there is nothing wrong with comparison and contrast but as far as actual arguments are concerned… the horse has been so thoroughly beaten that it’s starting to just get pathetic.

Anyway, enjoy and let this be an end to the bickering, at least in my presence.

Films and collections cited:

Sundry scuffles and battles featuring Chaplin: The Kid

Chaplin kissing a tree: Chaplin At Keystone

All Keaton clips: Buster Keaton – Short Films Collection

27 Replies to “Dear Movies Silently, Who is better? Chaplin or Keaton?”

  1. I used to be anti Chaplin but after watching City Lights and Modern Times i find that I like Chaplin,Keaton and Harold Lloyd in different ways. They were all geniuses at what they did. It’s too bad that Marion Davies, Mabel Normand and other female comics have overlooked by pop culture.

  2. I like ’em both, and like you discuss, I find it strange that people get so wildly argumentative over such a thing! However, for my brother and I, it’s always been Harold Lloyd; he’s been our favorite since we watched him on weekends back when we were kids, on a show that I believe was called ‘Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy’. Anyway, fun video, Fritzi!

  3. These fights are so stupid. As a Keaton devotee, I get embarrassed by some of the antics of my fellow fans. Chaplin and Keaton got on fine and did not diss one another; why should their fans do likewise?

      1. It’s gotten to the point where the only message board I can visit is a Universal Monsters one. The Karloff/Lugosi fights are surprisingly tame there (on IMDB, not so much). Like, fandoms should be fun; why do people feel the need to make them so annoying and mean-spirited?

  4. Aaaaaaaaaaagh!! I share your frustration at this question!! Asking “Who’s better — Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton?” is like asking, “What’s better — breathing out or breathing in?”

  5. Well done, Fritzi. It’s like asking who was better, Bach or Beethoven? Michelangelo or Raphael? Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle? When they reach that level of accomplishment, there is no need to rank them.

  6. Thank you for making this awesome video; this is easily one my favorites! I personally have a special place in my heart for Keaton, as he is what got me into silent film in the first place along with Conrad Veidt, but I do enjoy both men’s work and The Kid makes me cry every time. But if there’s one thing that fans can objectively agree with, its that Chaplin is an overall better biopic than The Buster Keaton Story….despite the fact that Chaplin is heavily romanticized and the treatment of certain historical figures within the movie make me angry. (Poor Mabel Normand…)

    1. Yes, and Mary Pickford too. She really got treated poorly.

      Chaplin is actually the performer who got me into silents so I am do have great affection toward him.

    2. I share your horror of what “Chaplin” did to Mabel Normand. The ending “what happened to them” recap was particularly sickening.

  7. Isn’t it interesting that Robin Williams was bashed for the same kind of pathos that Chaplin was (and still is) bashed for? Yet, in the aftermath of Williams’ death, people are taking another look at those heartfelt moments of our great contemporary clown. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  8. I would take a bullet for Keaton…well, if he wasn’t already dead…but I do hate the tendency for these dichotomies and “teams” to form. At any rate, “better” isn’t a defined term, and even who you “like” better isn’t terribly interesting. Tell me *why* you like one (or the other), and how they succeed in what you’re looking for…THAT’S a discussion!

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