The Mystery of the Dancing Doppelganger

In 1925 a film was released called The Masked Bride. It starred Mae Murray as a dancer of the Paris underground who gets caught up in romance and crime. No copies of the film survive and it is now considered lost, which is a real shame as it sounds like an interesting film in its own right:

(Times Union, December 1, 1925)

What makes this film so interesting to me, though, is that Buster Keaton’s identical twin apparently acted in the film as a nightclub Apache (ah-PAHSH) dancer.

Until a few things were pointed out to me, I was pretty much ready to battle down to the teeth that the mystery man in these photos was, in fact, Buster Keaton. Maybe he was doing someone a favor and hopped on set to show off his rumored dancing skills in between filming his own works, Go West and Seven Chances.

And, I mean, c’mon. Could he look more like Buster?

Ernie Orsatti was considered a great Buster lookalike, but no one’s talking about this guy?

Ernie Orsatti

Anyway, the real problem with this Buster theory comes down to the first finger on the right hand — Buster lost part of his as a child, and the mystery man apparently has his whole finger. And the ear.

This ear
(slightly enhanced for clarity)

The finger I’m more willing to attempt to explain away with various photography tricks of the time, but the ear not as much. According to Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” (and also…science) the human ear is unique. Like a thumbprint. And despite the fact that the ear shape does look quite a bit like Buster’s,

as far as I know, there’s no accounting for its attached quality at the base. Attached earlobes are genetic and Buster just doesn’t have it. At least not so prominently. (Unless! This isn’t a genetically attached earlobe and is maybe something more temporary? Or maybe it’s just some weird shadow?? . . .You can see how unwilling I am to give up my conspiracy theories. . .)

Apparently it was typical for the Apache to focus completely on the woman and her daring performance, so it was pretty common for the man to not be acknowledged at all. There’s no record anywhere to be found of who this mystery man might be. Despite his uncredited performance, he’s still featured in some prominent advertising:

Until we unearth an alternative candidate for the mystery man, I personally refuse to give up my remaining thread of hope that if The Masked Bride is ever found there’s a chance we might get to see Buster do some serious Apache style dancing. Like this:

Les Vampires (1915)

But I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with his performance in Doughboys, where Buster takes the part of the lady. And kills it.

MGM’s Doughboys (1930)

If anyone has any information about The Masked Bride, the mystery doppelganger or attached earlobes, please do let me know!

Mystery: Buster the Lifeguard?

Frequently while hunting through articles I find one that makes me stop and go hmm…really? Usually it’s pretty obvious where the mix-up happened. A lot of times if a story was good, newspapers would dust it off, change the name of the film it’s related to and run it again as advertisement. At other times it’s clear that Buster had nothing to do with the quotes attributed to him, but that they were written by his publicist. There are dozens of printed jokes (some of them hilarious) that I wonder if Buster ever heard of at all.

But every once in a while I come across an article that creates a real mystery in my mind. It’s much harder to explain exactly what the writer was thinking. What rumor they heard and blew up like a shiny balloon, or if there is actually any truth to the information presented.

This is one of those suspicious articles:

(Los Angeles Evening Post-Record, September 16, 1920)

I rank it as suspicious, because the quotes do sound to me like Buster. Was a newspaper man present at a casual, playful conversation and decided to record it? Are they making a silly reference to Arbuckle’s “Coney Island?” Did Buster talk about saving one life and they decided to make the story a little more interesting?

Here’s my guess:

I’m wondering if someone either read these articles about Buster’s leading lady, or were present at a conversation where both Buster and Sybil talked about swimming and saving lives, and they got the stories muddled:

(The Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1920)
(St. Joseph Gazette, June 20, 1920)

Then they decided to exaggerate – seven lives to fourteen, and the actual quotes are Buster talking about lifeguarding in general and funny terms.

Or, I could be totally wrong. What do you think? Anyone ever heard of Buster being a lifeguard?