Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, dir. Charles Reisner)
Keaton’s most famous gag occurred in Steamboat Bill, Jr., in which the facade of a house falls on top of him & he survives because he is standing exactly where the open attic window falls. Keaton declined to rehearse the stunt before shooting the scene because, as he explained, he trusted his set-up, so why waste a wall?
Excerpted from Marion Meade’s Buster Keaton:
“As he stood in the studio street waiting for a building to crash on him, he noticed that some of the electricians and extras were praying. The window was just big enough to give two inches of clearance on either side. Keaton drove a nail in the ground to mark his position. When the moment came and the house front came down, he froze. The open window hit him exactly as planned. Afterward, he would call the stunt one of his greatest thrills. He said later that he did not care whether he lived or died: ‘I was mad at the time, or I never would have done the thing.’”