Friday, December 11, 2009

So, just who is Frank Buxton?

If you've ever attended the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, chances are you've seen Frank Buxton. He is the amiable introducer of films and interviewer of guests. Buxton has been associated with the Festival for a number of years. He is not only a pleasant fellow with a big interest in the movies, he has also amassed a rather distinguished record in show business.

At the 2009 Winter Event, Buxton will interview Melissa Cox, the granddaughter of Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge. (Buster and Natalie were married in 1921, and had two children.) Their on-stage conversation will take place at the 7:00 pm screening of Keaton's Sherlock Jr.

Buxton's interest in the legendary silent film star goes beyond his involvement with the Silent Film Festival. Back in 1949, when he was a few years younger then he is today, Buxton appeared in a summer-stock production starring Buster Keaton! For a visual record of that encounter with greatness, see the scan below; it comes from the 2001 book, Buster Keaton Remembered, by Eleanor Keaton and Jeffrey Vance.

That production took place at the beginning of Buxton's distinguished and still-going 60 year career . On his website, Buxton describes his career as "lively and diverse," while modestly adding "I have lived for many years on the outskirts of show business with an occasional trip into town."

It's been much more than that. And Buxton is too humble.

Consider this: Frank Buxton wrote "Password," a 1972 episode of the television series The Odd Couple which was voted the fifth greatest TV episode of all time by TV Guide. He wrote other Odd Couple scripts as well, as well as scripts for Happy Days, The Bob Newhart Show, and Love, American Style. Buxton also directed episodes of Odd Couple, Happy Days, and Mork & Mindy. And produced, worked on, and appeared in many other programs.

On television, Buxton has provided the voice for numerous animated characters, and in 1966 teamed up with Hal Seeger for the cult cartoon series Batfink (issued on DVD in 2007). Buxton provided the voice of Batfink for all 100 episodes. He also created the Peabody Award-winning children's show Hot Dog for NBC. The series ran 1970-1971, and its three hosts were - get this - Woody Allen, Jonathan Winters, and JoAnne Worley! It's the only television series Allen has ever done.

Buxton has hosted two television series and appeared on many more. He co-hosted Discovery  from 1962 to 1969, and hosted the game show "Get the Message" in 1964, both on ABC. He also appeared a handful of times on The Tonight Show. Visit this page to see a humorous clip from a 1969 appearance on The Tonight Show. Buxton is the mod looking fellow who tells Johnny Carson a funny story.

Buxton's show business career has run the gamut from live theater to movies, television, radio and even commercials. (Buxton did the very first Xerox commercial.)

Buxton produced, directed and co-starred on the Bill Cosby Radio Program, and has hosted his own talk radio show on KABC in Los Angeles. (Buxton has also written two highly regarded books on the history of radio, Radio's Golden Age and The Big Broadcast.) And, his movie credits include work as a writer and voice actor on Woody Allen's debut film, What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966).

These days, Buxton lives in Seattle-area, and is currently involved with commercial work, live theatre, and improv. He performs regularly with The Edge, a Seattle-based group, and appear on the webcast CookusInterruptus. It is well worth checking out.

Frank Buxton serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. He has done so for many years. If you should encounter him at tomorrow's Winter Event or at the Summer Festival (he is a regular attendee), be sure and shake his hand. You'll be shaking hands with a gentleman and a scholar and an entertainer of many notable accomplishments.

1 comment:

  1. Louise Brooks watched "Mork & Mindy". "That man makes me laugh," she told Richard Koszarski in 1979. (That was two years before Frank Buxton's involvement with the show, though.)

    Source: Conversation with Richard Koszarski, October 24, 2009