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Week of October 16, 2002

Alloy Orchestra. Webster University presents the Alloy Orchestra, who accompany with music the silent films of Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. Though he was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle remains more notorious as a pornographic footnote to film history after the death of a young woman in his hotel room led to accusations of sexual abuse. Despite Arbuckle's being found innocent, the actor's career was destroyed; the studio bosses, already wary of complaints from moralists, turned their back on him and withdrew his films from circulation. Arbuckle's best films, until recently believed to be lost, reveal a talented and graceful acrobat with a flair for the kind of wild physical comedy that his protègè Buster Keaton would soon perfect. Indeed, it's tempting -- but misleading -- to look at the short films that Arbuckle and Keaton made between 1917 and 1920 as a training ground for the latter's masterpieces. That Arbuckle so generously allows Keaton, Al St. John or his other co-stars to tackle a fair share of the gags contributes much to his own comic standing; while his compatriots tumble and collide around him, the large, almost childlike Arbuckle retains a kind of comic grace in their midst, a nimble giant in a world of chaos. Three films will be screened: "The Bell Boy," "Back Stage" and "The Garage." Plays at 8 p.m. October 19 at Webster University. (RH)