Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Doozy #1: Comedy's Golden Age-The View from the 1950s

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Hi Everyone,

 

The first Daily Dose of Doozy will arrive in your email inboxes Monday morning, September 5, 2016. 

 

The theme of the first week of Doozies will focus on four clips from the Silent Film Era.

 

If you didn't receive this Daily Dose, it will be archived starting at noon Eastern time on September 5, 2016, here at the Canvas course site: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/1163/pages/daily-dose-of-doozy

 

You will need to be enrolled in the Painfully Funny course to view the archive link. 

 

Begin your discussions!

 

Thanks! 

 

Dr. Rich Edwards

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1. I for sure believe this was comedy's golden Era. I could watch any movie from this time and find it vastly more enjoyable and certainly funnier than movies put out today or in the recent past. For one, theres been a big shift recently into the R-Rated comedies with more sex jokes than anything else. Chaplin/Keaton/Lloyd etc. could keep me entertained with a simple chase around a tree or something like that. That says something about what level they were on.

 

2. Gags were definitely visual. I dont know if that's disappeared completely, but it's certainly used to a much lesser extent now, which is unfortunate, because, as I said before, a simple chase, like the one shown in the clip, is definitely entertaining. To me anyway...

 

3. Documentaries like these have had a large impact on people's thougs of the Era, I think, because some people may have never sat down to watch a Chaplin short had they not seen something like this first, maybe in school or something like that. It presents enough material to draw you in and make you curious as to what else the silent comedy Era has to offer.

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1. I would have to disagree with that statement in my opinion, I believe that it was more of the innovative era from 1912 to 1930 when screen comedians as well as producers and directors of screen comedy by expanding their craft from the vaudeville circuit that they usually practice on stage for their routines and play it out on film. I would believe that the sound era was the golden age of comedy, the silent era was the stepping stones and the blueprints for the coming eras of slapstick comedy to come in the future.

 

2. That I believe is not true, the visual gags might have disappeared from the silent film era, but they have simply evolved when the sound era was coming since screen comedians still had to come up with great verbal routines to accompany their visual gags along with it to provide a winning combination. 

 

3. The impact that these forms of documentation have is to remind us about our history of screen comedy and how it first started out, we must also thank the people who provided information in documentaries, essays, and compilation films to reintroduce film fans about the films and gags that have inspired comedians and filmmakers in their lives, that no matter what silent comedy you watch it still feels fresh and new again.

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I generally disagree with the idea that there is a certain golden age of comedy. Excluding, perhaps, the 15-20 last years, when comedy films have taken a downward spiral, every era in the history of film has produced a number of excellent comedies, with many similarities and as much difference between them. Every comedy fan has their own "golden age", according to their liking and understanding of comedies and cinema altogether.

 

However, I have to admit that the silent era was when comedy was in its purest and simplest form. Comedy flourished and dominated the silent film industry because it didn't need sound as much as the other genres and was somewhat sidelined when sound came because these other genres had the chance to develop much more than it.

 

I don't think visual comedy has disappeared, but it's true that very few comedies in the sound era based their humor in visual, physical gags as silent films did. Visual comedy is indeed enduring because it's timeless, while verbal jokes are almost always a product of their era. From the early sound films up to this date, visual humor is present in comedies, but used mainly for emphasis as a complementary tool.

 

There is no doubt that documentaries and other tributes to the silent film era and the old Hollywood altogether can have a massive impact on public opinion, as it makes it easier for people to see and learn things about the films made then. In the most recent years, internet has helped much to spread the legacy of these early films. This course is the perfect example!

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Great clip. I will start by saying that I take any statement about "glorious" past times with a grain of salt. Time is the best filter, and when someone says this or that era was better is usually heightened by the fact that the mediocre and bad things from that time have vanished from long-term memory.

 

With that said, I don't know if I would agree that the 1912-1930 era was "comedy's greatest era", but it certainly benefited from the format. With no sound available, directors made great use of visuals and music, as well as editing/directing techniques (fast-paced, etc.) to create funny images and films. But I don't consider myself that knowledgeable in the history of films and comedy to argue in favor of it as the "greatest era".

 

As for the second question/statement, I do disagree about the "visual" gag disappearing. If anything, it has evolved, but it is still used. TV shows like The Simpsons rely a lot on visual and physical gags. I do think that directors and filmmakers rely on it less than before, but it hasn't disappeared. More "modern" films like Rat Race, Airplane!, Vacation, Mr. Bean, etc. also make us of a lot of similar gags (chases, fast-paced comedy action, visual gags, etc.)

 

Finally, about the impact that a documentary like this might have on current audiences, it is a great way to introduce people to an old era, and teach them to appreciate film history. However, I subject this to my initial statement in that the documentary editorial (about that era being the greatest) might not be entirely accurate.

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1. Well it was definitely the golden age of physical comedy, I can agree with that.

 

2.  I think it evolved. The physical gags weren't used as much in the sound era, but they didn't completely disappear. 

 

3. I know personally, I am hugely influenced by documentaries. They give me fresh views of things I already knew about or introduce me to things I never knew about. 

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1. Applying the epithet of "The Golden Age of Comedy" to this period is a tad nostalgic but not entirely inappropriate. Comedy has been an ever-evolving art form that continues to take on many different styles. In my opinion, it was the inventiveness, the innocence, and the enthusiasm of these films that made them so much fun. The actors had to be far more talented to rely solely on visual effects to make the audience laugh.

 

2. In the beginning, by necessity, the comedy was all visual. In the dramatic silent films of this period, subtitles filled in gaps; however, the fast-paced action of a comedy made subtitles impractical. I wouldn't say that visual gags have entirely disappeared, but they have gone through their own evolution. Some gags are heady (like in "Dr. Strangelove" or "Airplane") but many remain physical (Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau or Leslie Nielsen in "Police Squad").

 

3. The advantage of documentaries is that the director can compose a highlight film of sorts from this period. I do not believe that some younger generations, known for their need of instant gratification, would have the patience to sit through an entire silent film. Documentaries may help to attract new viewers to the classic shorts and comedies of the silent period, but their greater accomplishment is providing historical appreciation of the roots of film comedy. Comparatively, it is like understanding how Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and various other performers made Rock and Roll what it is today.

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I disagree that visual slapstick has all but disappeared from the land. The advent of sound and the sophistication of the audiences have just made it unnecessary for the gags to be so over the top. Since so many of the early silent films we're just short scenes depicting real life such as "The Kiss" it was necessary to have everything extremely exaggerated in slapstick to differentiate it from the previous documentaries. Today we know that when Buddy is attacked by a raccoon in "Elf" that it's not real.

 

In that same vein, it seems that slapstick is no longer at the focus but instead a pleasant addition that is tied to the stories. For example Tim Allen being tossed around by the rock creature in "Galaxy Quest" added to the story. ( at least my limited understanding that would be slapstick).

 

However, even today we can see tributes paid to the old style comedy. The scenes shown in the clip reminded me of "Blazing Saddles" when they rode out of the old west at into modern studio.

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1. I for sure believe this was comedy's golden Era. I could watch any movie from this time and find it vastly more enjoyable and certainly funnier than movies put out today or in the recent past. For one, theres been a big shift recently into the R-Rated comedies with more sex jokes than anything else. Chaplin/Keaton/Lloyd etc. could keep me entertained with a simple chase around a tree or something like that. That says something about what level they were on.

 

 

I can agree with that. I hate that so much comedy today relies on vulgarity or gross-out humor. 

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1) while I love these silent films and find them hilarious, i do not believe they were the Golden age of comedy. I believe they USHERED in the true Golden age of comedy, the talkies of the 30s and 40s. The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Three Stooges, etc, etc. These films added witty, clever dialog to film, while still using the visual gags of the previous era.

 

2)

A) Mostly visual, but not completely so. There are scenes where you see characters outwitting others. Ok, maybe that's still visual?? Hmmm...

B) In the modern era, physical comedy in film has de-evolved to bodily function bits or crotch shots. Not clever and rarely funny. There are a few exceptions. I think Michael Richards, in Seinfeld, was an absolutely fantastic physical comedian. Jim Carrey is also a good, modern physical comedian.

 

3) these documentaries and clip shows help educate us on the past and introduce new generations to the great comedies of our past.

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Certainly a prolific era of comedy films and maybe the golden age of physical comedy films but comedy has evolved. Audiences have become more sophisticated, as have films.

 

Retrospective treatments of silent era films help shape and focus viewing films that might otherwise be underappreciated. It's difficult to envision a world without talking pictures for those who have never experienced that era.

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I disagree that visual slapstick has all but disappeared from the land. The advent of sound and the sophistication of the audiences have just made it unnecessary for the gags to be so over the top.

 

However, even today we can see tributes paid to the old style comedy. The scenes shown in the clip reminded me of "Blazing Saddles" when they rode out of the old west at into modern studio.

I absolutely agree with this. In my opinion, Agee's opinion about the silent era being the golden age is being a bit biased since his article was written approximately 20 years after the era "ended." There were many more wonderful comedies made after his article that I feel are just as good as the silent comedies. Take Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" for example. There's only one spoken word in that movie, ironically the word is said by Marcel Marceau.

 

I feel documentaries are made to sell you on a view of a topic. Back in 1957, the world didn't have social media other than the editorial pages of newspapers and magazines to offer an opinion. It probably was easier to sell the idea that the silent era was the golden age of comedy. I will agree, the era helped bring new stars that we would make household names down the line...Lucy, Benny, Hope, Brooks and even Carson.

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1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?

 

A little rusty to chirping in but I'd say that those dates encapsulate the comedy's greatest era as far as slapstick and tradition was concerned. Who gauges what is and isn't the "greatest"? I'd argue that we've had waves of great "greatest eras" perhaps like the golden age it has been studied as such. My knowledge of these things is novice so I will read on...

2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era?

 

I'd say visuals were a key for sure. Has it all but disappeared I don't think so. Influence is not a objective certainty and all the comedians of today have studied from the greats including our 3 or is it 4 heavyweights including Chaplin, Loyd, and Keaton. In that article they mostly touch on the guy who allowed for cameras to roll while the bafoonery carried on Senet I believe being his name. Again I'm new to the historical accuracy and only have a broad knowledge...

3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?

I grasp of a genre like screwball comedy or slapstick as we are studying it. The silent era made a huge imprint relying on visual trickery and gags versus what today dominates our auditory senses for so many comedy outlets...

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1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?

 

like verbal humour; I'm not going to get into superlatives.

 

2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era?

 

This brings up a point I was thinking of bringing up when we get into recent films. There are still some people doing slapstick because they like it, but I'd argue that the key recent movements in comedy don't lend themselves to the development of complex slapstick routines.

 

Several of the later films in this series feature comics who got their basic training in improvisation: Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis (The Second City) or Will Ferrell (The Groundlings) for example.

 

When I was taking improv workshops many years ago, it was generally acknowledged that getting into real Three Stooges stuff in an improvisation was likely to get people hurt. A complex slapstick routine needs skill, developed over many years, and carefully developed choreography. There are a lot of improv games aimed at creating physical comedy, but nothing too risky.

 

Then there's the whole "Oxbridge" movement of British comics; Monty Python, The Goodies, Rowan Atkinson and so on. On the plus side, these people grew up listening to The Goons (one of the few groups to manage to do slapstick on the radio). On the other hand, they started out doing comedy as an extra-curricular activity, while studying law and medicine and such.

 

Of course, you can go out and learn Commedia if you like http://www.commediabyfava.it/biografia_inglese.htm. In its Golden Age, Hollywood provided a factory system for creating slapstick.

 

This is getting TL;DR, I'll take on question three later.

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1) It is difficult for me to say if the silent period was comedy's greatest era. Obviously with sound somewhat viable commercially as of the late 1920's, comedy had to resort to broad physical gags at times. Comedians Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy and directors/producers Sennett and Roach (and to a lesser extent, Larry Semon and other comedians) brought the silent gag to its high art form. I believe that the Golden Age incorporated the slapstick of the 1920's with the wonderful verbal comedy of the Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy (again!), The Three Stooges and later, Abbott and Costello so that the Golden Age was the 1930's and 1940's.

 

2) By the 1930's and 1940's many of the people in front of the and behind the cameras in the 1920's were still making contributions (writers, directors and some stars, like Keaton, reduced to supporting player status). The visual gag did not disappear, but was worked into the story more often and was not necessarily the centerpiece of the film. As most of the comedians developed in the '30's and 40's the films became longer. Two reelers no longer dominated the screen, so stories had to be employed in order to work the gags in. (Chaplin, Keaton & Lloyd all did this in their features in the 20's, which is why they are geniuses.)

 

3) Documentaries are a great help to viewers and students as they expose people to a highlighted area of film that the maker of the documentary want them to see. Without this exposure, some people would never see certain types of comedy. And, historically, some of the compilations saved certain films (and parts of films) that would not be in existence today if not for them. I know that after watching documentaries, I further search particular topics that I find interesting.

 

This course is a perfect example of the seeing films that you ordinarily might not choose to view.

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I don't agree that the silent era was the 'golden age' of comedy. Film comedy has been delighting audiences in novel ways since the early days through today. I would say that the silent era was perhaps the most transformative in terms of innovation, as filmmakers were learning how to incorporate techniques of film into their comedy art, which wasn't that far removed from the stage at that time. And certainly there were geniuses of the silent film comedy which allows those films to have lasting power. We all get nostalgic for earlier times and I expect nostagia was at least partly responsible for that statement.

 

I would say, yes, largely the gags were visual, but the accompanying music and musical effects also added to our appreciation of silent comedy. Without any sound, watching a silent comedy is a very different experience. In addition, the inclusion of facial close-ups could add to the comedic effect, and this wouldn't have been possible in a stage comedy.

 

I don't really have an opinion about whether documentaries influence the public perception, but I expect if the documentarian is well-respected enough, film scholars would be likely to adopt some of their rhetoric.

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1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?

Now funny thing about this "golden age" of comedy thing. i come to answer this question NOT from a visual point of view but from the Sound Point of view. I wrote last summer that I am a big fan of old time radio shows and yes there was a visual to it but in the mind. There were gags in various comedy shows but with the use of sound to make that visual gag so much better. Was 1912-30 comedy the golden era? From a radio show point of view yes it was granted the radio shows started in the 30s-60s. Yes that was the golden age of radio. Was it the golden age of comedy for the movies? I do not think so. i think the golden age of comedy began in the 40s.

 

2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era? 

 

i think that the gags of comedy evolved into the sound era. They were some what funny without sound but with the use of sound then the gags take on a new dimension. 

 

 

 

3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?

 

 

i think that they are a good tool to learn from and get the history of it.

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1. I agree that this may have been the golden era of physical comedy, but as the talkies came in I think that that added a dimension to the comedy that certainly does not exist today.

3.  I like the documentaries because that do add information and some different insights to the movies.

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The silent era was certainly ONE of the golden ages of comedy. Comedy, like everything, evolves with changes in society, technology,etc. The best gags of that era HAD to be visual. That does not mean that later,talking comedies did not have excellent visual gags. Sometimes these visual gags had great dialogue that enhanced the effect but other gags were still strictly visual. I think the Marx Brothers movies have great examples of both strictly visual gags and visual gags that were enhanced by the dialogue.

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I find it difficult to agree or disagree with these sweeping generalizations when we're only a few days into the course. As somebody else noted, "comedy" can cover quite a broad range of material, and I like verbal wit quite a bit. But slapstick is so visual that it is not surprising that it developed so fully in the silent era. So, sure, why not agree with this statement. The clips in the Golden Age of Comedy documentary also work against some of the earlier observations that modern technology, animation and CGI ruined slapstick. The meta-imagery revealing the tricks of the movie trade with the revolving soundstage, etc. seem to be a significant element of slapstick, turning the fakery into more humor.

 

I'm liking the comments about how sound can shape our perceptions of what's going on. The "slapstick' itself plays into that exaggeration, but the whistle slides when someone falls is another kind of cue that this is "fun", not sinister. You see this all the time in visual material (visual elements figure strongly in other genres, too.) Somebody riding a horse, is it romantic or a chase scene-- the music will tell you. Somebody creeping through an empty house-- the music is light and breezy for Murder She Wrote and creepy for a horror movie. 

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Comedy's Golden Age

 

1. I agree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912-1930 were the golden age as the way the camera and films communicated with the audience vastly changed with the introduction of "talkies."  It is the difference between talking on the telephone to utilizing FaceTime to being with someone live.  Roughly 85% of our non-verbal cues in communication are hidden when on the telephone verses being there in real life.  That same was true of the golden age to today.  They tried so much harder in the silent films to explode our senses with comedy on multiple levels all at the same time.  It was over the top, where comedy after 1930 changes and was more subtle.

2.  Yes, the gags were completely visual, but the gags also appeals to the audience on different levels based on age, experience, culture, state of happiness at the time watching, etc.  It originates with the old cliche, "actions speak louder than words."  Comedy changes with the way we are feeling on that day.  I agree the imagination of those films and what we saw in the clip with the mountainous background, the spontaneity, the cleverness is a lost art.  It was a time of great talent, yet an innocent time of comedy.  Although difficult, it seems so genuine and effortless.

3. I am a believer of film, to have read the book first it is exists in order for my brain to have a virginal experience and imagine the writings in my own way.  Then I would watch the film.  In comedy's a century ago to modern times without a book, the experience still should be fresh and new to truly, deeply enjoy.  I am not a fan of cheating and reading Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, other documentaries before seeing the real thing as the written or spoken word can alter your viewpoint of the film and then your thoughts are not purely your own.

Impact_of_Nonverbal_Communications.pdf

Impact_of_Nonverbal_Communications.pdf

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1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?

 

I do not agree.  I think that the films of that period should be cherished as the sine qua non of all subsequent film comedy; and the very best of those films can stand shoulder to shoulder with the comedy films of any era.  However the repartee added to the slapstick in a Marx Brothers film or an Abbott and Costello routine, for me, ups the enjoyment level significantly; and the same can be said for films like Woody Allen’s Sleeper and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

 

2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era?

 

Films between 1912 and 1930 were not completely visual.  There were intertitles, many of which were very humorous in their own right.  Also, sound effects often were provided in the theater.  In smaller theaters, this would be accomplished by a drummer with a sound effects machine.  In larger theaters, an orchestra would be provided; and, as time went on, a score written specifically for the film being shown would be played.  These written and auditory “add-ons” certainly enhanced the films of this period.  That being said, the films of this period were mostly visual and they are imaginative and enduring.  This form of comedy has not disappeared.  Again I would reference Woody Allen’s Sleeper, where you can see the most colossal banana peel slip of all time in a scene with no dialog at all.

 

3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?

 

All of these things have served to focus our attention on the films of the silent era; and that is a good thing – a wonderful thing, in fact.  At the same time, however, I think that these “voices of authority” have intimidated us a bit and biased us toward thinking of this period as “the golden age of comedy”.  I think that every age is a golden age of comedy.  There are many different “shades” of gold.

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1. Do you agree or disagree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 – 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age?" Why or why not?

 

I agree with most of the other people on the message boards, I like comedy talkies better. Sound just gives you more options. The Marx Brothers are a perfect example of a transitional combo: silent slapstick (Harpo) and great language jokes. There is no comedy, silent or talkie, better than The General, that's true, but for my money, that's the pinnacle. 1912-1930 might have been the golden era of physical comedy, but not comedy. 

 

2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual—a form of wit that has all but disappeared from the land, but which experts now agree were among the most imaginative and enduring comedy of all…?” Did this form of comedy "disappear" or did it simply evolve in the sound era?

 

If silent-era gags were completely visual, you wouldn't need title cards. You need to know, for example, why the confederate recruiters are preventing Buster from enlisting in the army or that whole scene in the office isn't funny--you have to know he's being rejected because he's more valuable as a train engineer, not because he's incompetent, because the movie's funny because he's UBER competent--and I don't know how you'd get that info without intertitles.

 

3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?

 

I'm so glad you asked. I love documentaries. Silents--or lots of subjects--wouldn't be as appreciated without non-fiction studies of them, but holy cow, the inexpensive talking-head documentary has been done to death. If I see one more film critic say "Buster Keaton was a GEEEnyus!" I'm gonna... well, change the channel. Film clips, yes, exposition, yes, behind-the-scenes footage, yay; talking head with nothing original to say, yeeeeesh. Enough already.  

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I agree that the silent comedy era was A golden age, but maybe not THE greatest age of comedy. The people who took cinema into its adolescence were fearless geniuses, doing their own stunts and figuring out how to take visual comedy beyond what was possible in theatres and circuses of the day. The Doozy film clip showed how they used a giant revolving backdrop and a mechanical horse as crude but effective special effects. This was only the beginning of what would later be possible with special effects, but it all goes back to people like Mack Sennett and even Georges Melies working out how to create these cinematic illusions.

 

Silent, visual comedy is universal because it usually does not require a cultural context or language to understand. It is a universal human trait to laugh at others' misfortunes and be momentarily glad it wasn't us who slipped on the banana peel. This goes back to Aristotle, I think.

 

Most emphatically this type of comedy has not disappeared. Great artists still pay homage to their masters. Lucille Ball learned the art of slapstick from Buster Keaton and Harpo Marx, and "I Love Lucy" frequently incorporated clowning and great clowns from vaudeville and the silent era ("Slowly I turn....").

 

Mel Brooks, as someone else noted, brought slapstick brilliantly into the modern era, and he even inserted shoutouts to the greats: in Blazing Saddles the sheriff is welcomed to town with a "laurel -- and hearty handshake." In "HIstory of the World Part I" (? I think. Maybe Spaceballs) he has a scene in which a church leader processes in, and people are saying, "Good morning, Abbot. Good morning, Your Grace," and someone yells, "Hey A--botttt!"

 

Johnny Depp did Keaton routines in "Benny and Joon." The 2001 movie "Rat Race" carried forward the slapstick tradition (a whole bus full of Lucys!) and was a sort of remake of "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)," which was itself a masterpiece of physical comedy.

 

Today we have the heirs of this tradition still going at it. Take Ben Stiller, for example, who is himself the child of two comedians of the previous generation, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. He totally gets the importance of the sight gag and of perfect timing, and it is obvious that he has done his homework and loves the movies.

 

I just watched "Zoolander 2," and laughed so hard at Benedict Cumberbatch's character, called "All." I'm not even sure how to analyze that. It is a very clever commentary on arty pretentiousness, and Cumberbatch uses his face and body hilariously, but you have to hear the phrase "hot dog, or bun?" and hear him/her intone, "All is done." And then of course Zoolander's trademark is his Blue Steel Look--reminiscent of one of Chaplin's more searing Tramp expressions.

 

Also a lot could be said about Scorsese's "Hugo (2011)," which is an homage to Melies, but mostly that the director brilliantly uses the set piece of the Paris train station to show little silent vignettes--the lady with the dachshund, the flower seller, the policeman with the mechanical leg, Hugo hanging on the giant clock--classic stuff from this silent golden age for millennial chldren.

 

So I kind of think that even if the scholars get it wrong, there are plenty of fillmmakers--Brooks, Stiller, Scorsese, and many others--who carry on the great tradition and get it right, even today.

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Yes, I can agree with Agee and Youngson stating that the silent era was critical in the growth of comedy and slapstick. Slapstick needed to be used for action and to convey comedy on the screen. The use of witty dialogue was not able to be used to any extent so it was much easier to bop someone over the head or fall out of a window that it was to convey a funny joke. This was used to elaborate the use of slapstick from the stage to the moving picture stage and to expand this form of comedy.

Gags in silent needed to be visual and had to be used on the screen as visual gags. That was practically the only way to get a gag across then. I don't think that these gags or slapstick has disappeared with the advent of sound but possibly made stronger in some ways. With sound, now you can add a verbal joke along with the gag or slapstick. With sound being used the gags were still used too. Laurel and Hardy used sight gags all the time, where the Three Stooges or Abbott and Costello incorporated verbal jokes in with their gags. Keaton created, used and lent tons of gags throughout his whole life, whether it was sound or silent.

I think documentaries are extremely useful and helpful in understanding the process of comedy and such. Youngson's THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY is just one example. It has been used for study of comedy and slapstick for over 50 years and will continue for a long time, I think.

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