I came across this book by chance, at first finding its large size and many photos appealing, and then I found it fun and easy to read as well. As I read through the pages, it gradually dawned on me what an important and special book this actually is, and that reading it had given me something beautiful, special and very positive. This story of one man's life is so much more than an autobiography, a collection of memories and a `who's who' of early Hollywood. Reading Coy Watson Jr.'s life story transports you back in time and makes the people, places and events very real, almost as if they had become part of your own history. Perhaps this is due to the informal style of writing, as well as the personal memories and feelings he expressed in between accounts of working with big names in Hollywood and how his father worked on the sets of famous silent movies. Genuine warmth and passion radiate from the pages and infect the reader, even if he or she is not a great fan of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops comedies. In fact, the passion is for life and everything good and happy life has to offer, and it was only circumstances that led to Coy Watson Jr growing up next-door to Mack Sennett's early film studio, watching the first slapstick and action-packed comedies in the making, and learning about the film industry along the way.
The reader can glean many other things from this book besides some early Hollywood names, such as what people and the way of life was in the early 1900s. Personal accounts and some insights into behind-the-scenes events on the sets of famous actors and movies are exciting to read for any film buff, and the down-to-earth style in which Coy relives his fond memories arouses deeper feelings of nostalgia, making the reader feel exactly what Coy expressed near the end of his story, namely that with the coming of sound, the happy, fun and carefree days of movie-making were over - and would never return. This is one of the things that makes "The Keystone Kid" a gem of a book, giving readers a glimpse into a life and times gone by.
Some of the highlights for silent film enthusiasts are the descriptions of Coy Watson Sr.'s pioneering work in using piano wire to create all kinds of stunts and tricks - from Mack Sennett's Keystone comedies to the prestigious Douglas Fairbanks movies, "The Thief of Bagdad" and "The Black Pirate". Earlier memories relate Coy's father working with the great Western film star, Tom Mix, and what happened off camera with horses and extras. Coy Jr himself worked in movies since early childhood, working with stars such as Jackie Coogan, Mary Pickford, Marion Davies, Ronald Colman, William Haines and Hobart Bosworth. After reading his life story which is divided into subheadings of years in chronological order - each page beautifully laid out, I might add - there is a section devoted to his best films, all with at least two nice and large pictures. Although the pictures are all non-glossy black and white, I suspect there are quite a few rare and special ones among them, as well as other memorabilia film historians and fans alike would enjoy. Throughout the book, there is at least one picture on each page, many from Coy's private collection, which all add to making this book feel like a personal encounter with a person, a life and a time that once was. A book worth reading and putting in a special place.