Joseph Frank Keaton, known professionally as Buster Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966), was an American comic actor and filmmaker. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face".
Keaton was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton the 21st-greatest male actor of all time. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies." Orson Welles has stated his belief that Keaton's The General is the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made. A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton's The General as the 15th best film of all time. Three other Keaton films received votes in the magazine's survey: Our Hospitality, Sherlock, Jr., and The Navigator.
Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton into a vaudeville family. He was named "Joseph" to continue a tradition on his father's side—he was sixth in a line bearing the name Joseph Keaton—and "Frank" for his maternal grandfather, who disapproved of the parents' union. Later, Keaton changed his middle name to "Francis". His father was Joseph Hallie "Joe" Keaton, a native of Vigo County, Indiana. Joe Keaton owned a traveling show with Harry Houdini, the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company, which performed on stage and sold patent medicine on the side. Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas, the small town where his mother, Myra Edith Cutler, happened to go into labor.