Book Review – The Keystone Kid

From Time to time when a book should happen to overlap into the realm of film in some way I will take occasion to review it if recommended.

I’m not one who is usually prone to reading memoirs. However, when doing research for a personal writing project, the very same one that inspired Poverty Row April, I came upon a fascinating memoir called The Keystone Kid by Coy Watson, Jr.

Starting from his father’s emigration from Canada to California and how Coy, Sr. met his mother, through the arrival of the film industry in southern California, in Edendale not Hollywoodland as of yet, to later milestones; this book offers a fascinating and unique look at the artform when it was being created essentially on the fly. I will try and preserve most of the surprise for you the prospective reader, but I will note that one of the incredible revelations is that Coy Sr. was quite the intuitive creative force behind-the-scenes in the formative years of the film industry.

As for Coy’s childhood recollections, the descriptions are vivid and free from embellishment. His tone is an impressive combination of childhood wonder and elderly reminiscence that you could sit and read (or imagine yourself listening to) for hours. It’s one thing to make a simple declarative statement, for example, when he discusses how much love was in the Watson house, but he really makes you feel that and the playful, fun and adventurous early days of film. While the tale is told anecdotally there is also a certain plotting to it. Certain things, like Watson’s interest in photography, are setup then followed up upon later.

The Keystone Kid (2001, Santa Monica Press)

Aside from the wonderfully moving storytelling, the book also does serve as a significant document in film history illuminating not only Coy, Senior’s status as a pioneer, but also serving as a reminder that even before the Barrymores, this was the first family of film with all nine of the Watson children gracing the screen in more than 1,000 films. Yes, that’s one thousand not one hundred.

There are some amazing things in the book that will leave you awestruck and they could’ve only happened when films were young, and they could only be reported by someone who lived it. It’s a fascinating, wonderfully enjoyable book that’s highly recommended for all fans of film.

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