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Marion Meade Buster Keaton Research Files

Identifier: MsC0512

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Scope and Contents

Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton, an actor of vaudeville and film and eventual filmmaker known as “The Great Stone Face,” is perhaps one the most recognizable entertainers, whose career spanned across the first half of the twentieth century. Since then, he has become one of the most influential actors, the techniques and styles of many actors often attributed to his own. Some of his most well-known films include The General (1926), Sherlock, Jr. (1924), and The Navigator (1924), among many others. Keaton lived an exciting, though complicated, life over the course of 70 years, a personal life often hidden behind his success and face of stone.

Biographer Marion Meade wrote her fifth biography, this time on Keaton, for publication timed to coincide with the centenary of the film star's birth in 1895. Meade conducted her research for four years, interviewing and collecting information from some 200 people who had known or worked with Keaton. This is the collection of Meade’s research on Keaton that ultimately led to Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase, published by HarperCollins in 1995. These files, notes, recordings, and drafts have been organized as follows:

Series 1: Biographical Information. Materials directly related to the life of Buster Keaton, mostly from other publications. Details about the histories of his life, his family, and close friends, as well as death certificates and divorce papers can be found here.

Series 2: Hollywood History. Historical research related to Hollywood that is not directly about Keaton.

Series 3: Interviews. Meade’s notes on, transcripts of, and recordings of the various interviews conducted. Not all interviews have transcripts, though most will have Meade’s shorthand notes instead. Any correspondence conducted with interviewees outside their interview has also been placed in their respective folders. Recordings are found in a separate sub-series which refers to the audiocassette of Meade’s interviews, though most have been digitized and may be available in a digital format. All folders have been organized alphabetically by last name.

Series 4: Correspondence. Any materials gathered from persons not interviewed but were contacted. Written communication and mail from these individuals as well as conversations with libraries make up this series. Individual Correspondence and Mail has been organized by last name with the exception of two individuals unaffiliated with Meade’s book, who can be found at the end of the sub-series. Letters from fans, reviewers, and others from after the book’s publication have also been collected here, but they are not separated by individual persons.

Series 5: Research Notes, Chronological. Written notes and logs from Meade’s research collected from all sources. This series also includes two research notebooks from Meade. The rest of her notes have been organized by date.

Series 6: Photographs. All photographs that Meade collected for the biography. Items have been listed under the name of the person who shared their collection with Meade. Photographs of Keaton and of or from his family have been prioritized in the organization. Those collected from correspondents have been organized alphabetically, and those collected from other organizations are placed after.

Series 7: Manuscripts and Drafts. The manuscripts of Meade’s typed drafts have been organized by chapter. Manuscripts that have been marked with annotations and revisions are found in the second sub-series listed by page number. Meade’s original proposals for Cut to the Chase can also be found here.

Series 8: Publication and Promotional Materials. All logistical information from publishers HarperCollins and Da Capo Press are in this folder. Reviews that Meade collected about Cut the Chase and any permissions granted for use can also be found here.

Series 9: Presentations. This series consists of one document from a presentation that Meade gave on Cut to the Chase.

Series 10: Theatre Materials. Two items related to theatre that are mostly unrelated to Keaton and the biography.

Series 11: Publication and Promotional Materials. All logistical information from publishers HarperCollins and Da Capo Press are in this folder. Reviews that Meade collected about Cut the Chase and any permissions granted for use can also be found here.

Series 12: Publications from Other Authors. Manuscripts of interviews and books that were not conducted by Meade. Interviews were not conducted for the book. Other bound books Meade used in her research can be found in the x-collection of Special Collections and Archives.


  • Creation: 1895-1997


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives as the source of the material. For further information, visit


10.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Research material compiled by Meade while writing the biography Buster Keaton Cut to the Case.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries by Marion Meade.

Re-processed and re-described by DJ Kime, 2023
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)