Image: Virginia Fox and Buster Keaton in his 1922 film “The Electric House”.
From: Chapter XXIII – August, One Summer – America 1927 (2013), by Bill Bryson:
“As Jolson was filming his talking sequences in Los Angeles, 400 miles to the north in Sacramento Buster Keaton was filming what may be the single most memorable scene in any silent film – certainly one of the most perfect comic scenes, not to mention most dangerous. It was the scene in Steamboat Bill Jr. in which the front wall of a house falls on to Keaton, but he survives because he is standing in the space of an open window. To make the scene maximally thrilling – and it truly is – the window was made just two inches wider than Keaton on either side. Had the wall warped or buckled slightly or the point of impact been fractionally miscalculated, Keaton would have been killed. Perhaps nothing says more about silent movies and those who performed in them than that actors routinely risked their lives for the sake of a good joke. That didn’t happen in talking pictures.”