The process of organizing and arranging manuscript collections is one of ongoing discovery. You never know what you will find, as our Graduate Student Assistant Jeff Borowiec was reminded as he works through the Houston Gray Collection:
“Deep in the cold dark recesses of the Collection of Houston Gray, obsessive collector of anything and everything related to the movies and theater, lies an interesting anomaly: Two black and white film stills of child actor Jackie Cooper dreaming of Christmas morning, which are said to be promoting the young star for an upcoming film called Buddies, starring also Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante. The only thing is, this film was never actually made.
Keaton, comedy giant of the silent-screen, had been paired up with Durante before on MGM’s The Passionate Plumber (1932), Speak Easily (1932), and What! No Beer? (1933), the last of which was an ironic casting choice given Keaton’s notorious trouble with alcohol, both on and off set. The comedy pair was box office gold, even when Keaton was not all there, as it were. Felicia Feaster writes for Turner Classic Movies about the difficulties of shooting What!… that were caused by Keaton’s alcohol problem (read full post here):
Keaton claimed to finish a bottle of booze a day during the six week shooting schedule. During the production, Keaton disappeared and wound up honeymooning in Mexico City with a nurse named Mae Scriven whom he had married during an alcoholic blackout. In the meantime, the “What! No Beer?” team shot around Buster Keaton.
Though plans for Buddies were already underway, Keaton’s issues with alcohol became too much of a burden for himself and the studio. What! No Beer? ended up being the final film Keaton would make at MGM, and Buddies was to never come to fruition. These two innocent (and rather odd) holiday-themed publicity stills of a young Jackie Cooper (dreaming of receiving a boat, imagining a small army of Santa Clauses for some reason) are examples of what little is left to show for it.”