Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Doozy #4: Amusing Attractions: Harold Lloyd

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Hi Everyone,


 


The fourth Daily Dose of Doozy will arrive in your email inboxes Thursday morning, September 8, 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 8, 2016, here at the Canvas course site: https://learn.canvas...y-dose-of-doozy


 


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


 


Begin your discussions!


 


PS, this is the last Daily Dose of this week. There are no Daily Doses on Fridays. The next comes Monday, and it will be a Pip! (I've probably said too much already :-)


 


Thanks! 


 


Dr. Rich Edwards


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This clip from Speedy is an interesting parallel to yesterday's in the Breakdown video from Coney Island, of Fatty getting hit accidently by Keaton's back swing for the high striker game. Here it's a stranger who gets his ice cream pushed in his face when Speedy swings his arm back to throw a ball to knock down bottles. Unlike Coney Island though, where Fatty, the "victim," gets retribution and the prize cigar, when the stranger throws the ball back at Speedy in anger he knocks down all the bottles instead, an act credited to Speedy so he gets the prize doll for his girlfriend, not the "victim."

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1.     In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

I read an article once that noted that the Marx Bros. film At The Circus was not a good film because a circus (where clowns and other zany things occur) did not provide enough contrast for the wild humor of the Marx’s.  By contrast, an amusement park provides ample opportunity for Harold Lloyd’s everyman character to get involved in humorous situations.

 

2.     Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

The characters in Chaplin’s film seem to be exaggerated, almost cartoonish. Likewise, the situations that consume Chaplin are embellished beyond real life.  Buster Keaton’s character also seems to be a mixture of a larger-than-life person with a deadpan expression who finds himself in extraordinary (sometimes surreal) circumstances that would be potentially hazardous or life-threatening to the ordinary person (falling houses, sinking floors and roofs).  By contrast Harold Lloyd finds himself in situations that ordinary people visiting an amusement park would encounter.  Unlike the funny mustache and big shoes of Chaplin or the porkpie hat and floppy attire of Keaton, Lloyd looks like anyone else from his era.  Consequently, the humorous situations he encounters are situations that could apply to anyone.  This everyman approach to Lloyd’s comedy takes slapstick out of the extreme to the ordinary.

 

3.     In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

I know many people who do not like the surreal comedy of the Marx Bros or the outrageous physical comedy of the Three Stooges.  I imagine those same sentiments apply to Chaplin and Keaton.  Instead, some prefer the “realistic” comedy provided by performers like Lloyd that makes their brand of humor more relatable to the common man.  

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Harold Lloyd loved using urban settings in his films, more than Chaplin and much more than Keaton. His films and characters seem to embrace the view that the development of big cities with the use of then emerging technologies and inventions had much to offer to mankind. As we see in this clip, however, as well as in his most famous scene in Safety Last!, Lloyd also uses these settings to construct and execute slapstick gags. Here, he uses the amusement park, a popular way of entertainment these days, exploiting the fast pace and exaggeration its exhibitions offer.

 

Lloyd portrayed the everyday man in most of his films and the characters, settings and gags he used were the most realistic seen in the silent era. That doesn't meen they're entirely free of exaggeration or dangerous stunts (the clock scene in Safety Last! is again an example) but, compared to the other two silent comedy giants, Chaplin and Keaton, Lloyd's films were more of a reflection of his contemporary society. His world is more optimistic than Chaplin's and more smooth and realistic than Keaton's, appealing to a wide middle-class audience of the 1920's, but still being timeless and enduring.

 

Lloyd was another silent comedian which helped slapstick become a mature form of comedy rather than a haotic bunch of jokes. He also helped "modernize" the slapstick comedy, using the then modern settings of a rapidly changing civilization to produce laughs. With this element, slapstick became more complex and added another weapon in its arsenal of fun.

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1. Lloyd creates a fun and playful atmosphere for his gags, when he and his girlfriend Ann Christy ride the spinning wheel in the beginning of the clip there is a crab that was in his pocket that pinches the other customers in the rear end causing them to leave the wheel early, the next attraction they went to was the tumbler which made it so vibrant and carefree, then the slide and finally an old carnival game where Lloyd has to throw a ball at the row of milk bottles to win a prize. When he extended his aim too far, there was a man behind him that has ice cream in his face as a gag. The rides in the park no matter how silly they look are purely original for this film.

 

2. Yes, Schickel makes a great point, I see no use of exaggeration or stylization in this clip, Lloyd was portraying a real live character that was representing the all american boy that is used to these ordinary situations and he plays himself as the middle man by being the middleman of the trio, he is the epitome of the all american nerd in my opinion that differed from Chaplin's dancing techniques in his films or Keaton's athletic stunts in his movies, Lloyd was the average man, the true american icon of slapstick comedy as the oddball of the 20th century.

 

3. Lloyd was the first screen comic to portray his onscreen persona very naturally in emotions and physicality, his movies dealt with realism instead of surrealism or danger, they were both simplistic and complex, his films faced ordinary and extraordinary situations that no film viewer has ever witnessed in screen comedy. Lloyd's contribution is bringing realism and social situations of his period to the movies that makes people wonder if the average man could become popular by being themselves instead of pretending to be someone that they are not. His films freed themselves from exaggerated situations and ridiculous characters that can be seen as one dimensional, by bringing depth into his plots and characters.

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

Almost everyone has been to a carnival and overindulged in the junk food available there.  Often that would end with the severe nausea that Speedy seems to be suffering when we see him with has back to us and apparently vomiting.  But, wait, he’s just testing his lungs, apparently unaffected by his eating binge.  A nice gag (pun intended).  Then there’s the rolling barrel, which was a slapstick gag just waiting to be exploited.  And the baseball toss game was an excellent vehicle to deliver the expected pie or dairy product in the face gag.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

Yeah, I pretty much agree.  Although the trade mark glasses could be considered a stylization, I guess.  Also, Lloyd’s character was so totally average that often that very fact made him stand out.  But, on the whole, I would agree.  Lloyd’s 1920’s ‘everyman’ did find himself in some pretty unusual circumstances though, didn’t he.  Although often those circumstances just snuck up on him.  Not unlike what happened to the protagonist in many a film noir.

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Lloyd's use of the Coney Island setting was original in that the gags took place in what would be a normal process of visiting an amusement park. I was especially impressed with the gag when they ate all the food and did the lung test. I have to admit I did not see that one coming. Lloyd’s version of a trip to Coney Island was different from Fatty Arbuckle's “Coney Island” in that it seems more like a day at the park while Fatty Arbuckle’s version seemed to contain more comic chases.

 

Because it seemed more based in reality I would have to say I agree with Schickel’s assessment that Lloyd's comedy is more real. However, there is still some exaggeration. I think most people would know it if they had a lobster hanging on them. But if Lloyd knew it where would the fun be in the film.

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

The pincher (sea-life/shellfish) gag is relevant for the Coney Island location. The amusement park contains most of the attractions and setups for the gags including: the whirlybird ride (transitional optical whirly motif) pincher gag continues until he finally experiences the gag himself. The ball and bottle gag where he wins a prize based on the victim seeking revenge for being hit in the face and The blowing lungs bit all provide the context and location for the setup and ultimately the slapstick comedy.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

I do see a commonality with Llyod more than Chaplin and Keaton where less exaggeration and freer style makes it more true to life. For example he seldom over reacts or exaggerates his movements. I'm sure there are examples that contradict the seemingly less expressive or more subtle reactions etc.

 

3. In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

It had been mentioned that the look of Lloyd makes him more average and I tend to agree that glasses (even though lensless) and top hat atleast for the times was common as opposed to Chaplin's tramp uniform or Keaton deadpan style. I find it hard to point out obvious aesthetic differences in Lloyd and Keaton but they had styles unique to themselves. I'd add that Lloyd seemed to be depict the 'less is more' archetype. 'Average guy way over his head' kind of historical relevance and contributor. I'm still learning so bare with me...

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Lloyd,doesnt need to "educate" film goers at this stage of time-Over played pantomime,huge gestures with arms ,over played facial expressions-are not needed-the film quality is better,and the audience is more relaxed-vs ealier years when film goers were not sure what a "movie/moving picture really was",I find Lloyd more "middle class", and his settings prove it. He experinces things everyday middle class American families were doing in their lesuire time. In Lloyds time movie fans knew what to expect and could be more relaxed among others in their enjoyment.It was typical of this time to list a program of what the viewer would see-IE;community notices,folllowed by comedy,then drama,.In the earliest days-viewers would not know what to expect and would be very "up tight" about being in public and perhaps laughing to loudly or at the wrong moment.In Lloyds time people did not have to have a lot of money or expect it to be a formal art production,it was a medium more easily accessed by the middle class.

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Hello everyone,

 

1.  The setting is Coney Island as the clip opens to a crab from Lloyds pocket pinches a bent over lady, who in turn thinks Lloyd was fresh with her and she wallops him.  The crab continues to have its way pinching people on a spinning ride.  Next we see Lloyd and his girl indulge in food.  Then we think he got sick, but Lloyd is actually trying a lung test.  A montage of Lloyd and his girl going on rides and eating takes place with relates to our own carnival/fair experiences.  

 

2.  I agree with Schnickel.  Lloyd is free from low brow slapstick.  His comedy is relatable and everyday.  The clip shows how any of us have experienced a carnival/fair.  There was no need for over the top antics like Chaplin or Keaton.  Lloyd's comedy was very real in its portrayal. 

 

3.  Lloyd's contribution to slapstick was an everyday likability,  He was a normal guy just trying to have a normal day at Coney Island, as simple funny situations kept happening to him.

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1) In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

Since Coney Island in fact a character itself, there are so many objects that Lloyd chose to illustrate the fun of going to the amusement park. There is the pincher in his pocket, the spinner that he and his girlfriend are on, as the pincher pinches everyone until he is only one left. There is also the clever image of pinwheel that appears when they are on the spinning wheel. Everything in the scene has a purpose, especially to evaluate the action in the film.

 

2) Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

I mostly do agree of Lloyd's approach to comedy. His was more based on reality, in which the everyman finds himself in realistic situations that test his patience. Everyone can relate to this. However, there is some exaggeration, especially with the pincher (crab). Obviously, a person who eventually feel one in his or her pocket, but it does become a focus point in the sequence. To be honest, there is always going to exaggeration and stylization with every film genre, and definitely includes comedy.

 

3) In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

I think Lloyd added realism of everyday life and everyday circumstances. We could relate to every character he ever portrayed in his films. He brought a sense of reality to each gag and scene. This is just one reason why his films have stood the test of time. All of his character were just human beings put to the test of life.

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3. Lloyd was the first screen comic to portray his onscreen persona very naturally in emotions and physicality, his movies dealt with realism instead of surrealism or danger, they were both simplistic and complex, his films faced ordinary and extraordinary situations that no film viewer has ever witnessed in screen comedy. Lloyd's contribution is bringing realism and social situations of his period to the movies that makes people wonder if the average man could become popular by being themselves instead of pretending to be someone that they are not. His films freed themselves from exaggerated situations and ridiculous characters that can be seen as one dimensional, by bringing depth into his plots and characters.

I agree with 90% of that but either he evolved or this is incorrect because one of the most famous Lloyd bits is him dangling from a clock. Truly iconic and seemingly dangerous. Arguably death-defying whether it stacks up to Keaton or not it represents danger, however perhaps this is the audience expecting more of Lloyd -We'll find out... Agree he was the nerd of slapstickians but others stating he embodied the archetype of middle class kind of irks me because class structure is so last century :)

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

While Coney Island is a source of gags and amusements and Lloyd uses them with ease. Unaware of the crab in his pocket, it gets him slapped and on a wild spinning ride. The crab continues to pinch until Lloyd thinking he is the big winner and goes flying off the ride only leaving the crab on the ride. Even Lloyd gets a good laugh.

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

I agree that Lloyd is more real in that he tends to use his body movements to exaggerate his actions rather than exaggerated faces used by Chaplin and Keaton.

3. In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

From this clip I think Lloyd adds the every man aspect to slapstick. He is not running away from the police or unaware of his surroundings but living life as it happens.

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

While Coney Island is a source of gags and amusements and Lloyd uses them with ease. Unaware of the crab in his pocket, it gets him slapped and on a wild spinning ride. The crab continues to pinch until Lloyd thinking he is the big winner and goes flying off the ride only leaving the crab on the ride. Even Lloyd gets a good laugh.

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

I agree that Lloyd is more real in that he tends to use his body movements to exaggerate his actions rather than exaggerated faces used by Chaplin and Keaton.

3. In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

From this clip I think Lloyd adds the every man aspect to slapstick. He is not running away from the police or unaware of his surroundings but living life as it happens.

It was the sea life that had the last laugh ????

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I think Lloyd uses the theme of the spinning wheel to change to different attractions which is a very effective technique for this era. As far as Schickle goes I tend to agree with him although I think Lloyd is somewhat stylish with the glasses that have no lenses. I think he was a master of his craft a contributed many factors to comedy and I think he contributed the way to get others  to help you. At the end of the clip he got the man to throw the ball and win a prize for the lady.

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags?

 

He uses them as him being sort of the "Everyman" of slapstick. The vast majority of viewers could never hope to emulate Keaton or Chaplin's adventures but I can't help but notice that Lloyd's adventures take place with a lot of people experiencing the same circumstances albeit without a crab in their pockets.

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton?

 

I agree. One thing that stood out for me is that Lloyd seems less in control of his environment than Keaton or Chaplin.  As I said in #1 above the fact that there's a bunch of people on the spinning disc places Lloyd more in the normal or human realm. We may wish we could be Buster or Chaplin onscreen but we can see ourselves as Lloyd.

3. In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

I saw a two level approach to the audience. First, we know that there's a crab in his pocket when his character doesn't so we know why the people are being pinched. We see him hit the guy at the bottle toss and know better than the operator how the bottles fell down. Then we're no longer in his confidence with the eating montage because we initially think he's being sick and then he reveals in his own good time that he's OK, we were wrong and he's on a Test Your Breath machine.  Through scene blocking he's setting us to know what's going on and then surprises us. Compare this to Chaplin's lunch wagon where we see all as it happens and long time Chaplin fans can even predict the cop gets clobbered. Back to Lloyd in this clip in the gags we first know more than he does, we know as much as he does which is more than the operator and finally we know less than he does thinking he's being sick when he isn't.  This is using the medium of film to alter our perception rather than just recording a performance.

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1. Lloyd and Christy use the rides and attractions, as they go on their adventurous and fun, onscreen date. Realistic occurrences and occasional mishaps ensue.

 

2. First, I want to disagree that Lloyd is "freer with his actions. Because they are well thought out and meticulously executed. However, I can see how one could think the steps appear less stylized.

 

3. Lloyd added fun, lightheartedness, and warmth to comedy.

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1. Lloyd and Christy use the rides and attractions, as they go on their adventurous and fun, onscreen date. Realistic occurrences and occasional mishaps ensue.

 

2. First, I want to disagree that Lloyd is "freer with his actions. Because they are well thought out and meticulously executed. However, I can see how one could think the steps appear less stylized.

 

3. Lloyd added fun, lightheartedness, and warmth to comedy.

You're on point but I can't agree that Lloyd brought warmth to comedy. At least not in any universe that includes Charlie Chaplin. His Tramp had an appeal beyond being a thief as seen at the climax of City Lights

 

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For a long time, I've realized how much social, cultural, political & material history I've learned from novels & film. Today's clip is an example of how while enjoying the film for its entertainment value one can also realize an era so unlike our own: clothes, attitudes, ways of moving, types of entertainment, what constitutes adult amusement & so much more. I often suggest that folks watch around the "edges" of a film along w/ the narrative, cinematography, direction, etc. there one might catch glimpses of what would now be historical evidence (I.e., not only the film studies aspects). I hope my comment is clear-- harder to express than I'd expected. ;-D

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One cannot help but agree with Schickel; however, his statement is relative to the matter of “realist.” Several factors play a role in creating more realism in Lloyd’s comedies. Like Keaton, he preferred location to prefabricated set shooting, but even more so. Unlike Chaplin—who he started out imitating, and failed at doing—he strived for the most modern, streamlined look. While the scenes at Coney Island’s rebuilt Steeplechase Park and Luna Park may seem dated to us, now, they were a shining example of that streamlined look in 1928.

Wringing the humor out of a situation is the primary problem for any comedian, and the question is always, how do you make something funny? What will make more people laugh? By creating artificial situations that are less realistic or finding more realistic, everyday situations that lend themselves to humor? Actually it is something of a toss-up and we find that most comedians use a combination, but Lloyd, here, tended more toward the realistic. However, the audience still has to accept that the crab’s timing is better than the actors’ in knowing exactly when to pinch the unsuspecting victims. And what a way to end that clip, that the poor man who has just been whacked and gypped out of a kewpie doll will make do with a tip of the hat and be on his way!

At times Lloyd’s films really were rather exaggerated, perhaps not as much as Keaton’s, and certainly not as much as Chaplin’s. But in general never as much as either. Except when he put himself in extreme danger with outsized stunts (in “Safety Last” for example) and went in for the exotic (as in the talkie “The Cat’s Paw” in 1934). He did it some in Speedy with the outrageous driving gags and fight scenes.

But this brings us to another point about definitions. Early in the film we see him at work at a soda fountain and there is a great deal of fast and chaotic play with dishes and oranges. This is “violent” action. Violent action does not necessarily have to involve physical harm, it merely has to display fast and chaotic action, as it does here and elsewhere in Lloyd’s film with frequency.

Perhaps I’m missing something (wouldn’t that be unusual). Maybe the intercut montage with spinning spirals is something new. Maybe the animated crab is new. Otherwise I don’t see much new in this clip. However, in the film, overall, there was much of interest, old and new. Losing the flowers and his job in one slam of a car door. Getting a seat on the subway with a fish-line dollar bill. Using a balloon as a hot dog to lure a real dog. How many ways he abused his new suit and his own demeanor, including reusing the crazy mirror gag in an ironic way. Then hitting that man in the face while throwing the ball was a take-off from the Keaton-Arbuckle move in “Coney Island” more than a decade earlier (also a subtle dig about baseball fans not being able to throw a ball). Setting up house in the back of the moving van was very reminiscent of set-up gags Chaplin, Keaton and others had done. The cab gags were often reminiscent of many Keaton car gags, but the bit with the two men fighting was copied several times in later years by the likes of Abbot and Costello and Sid Caesar.

In The Circus (1928) we see Chaplin being chased on a moving circle, being lost in a mirror maze, being chased through an amusement park, imitating a statue, then a moving piece of a clock, being pickpocketed, being mistaken for a pickpocket and getting lost inside a magic box, all within the second act. Every one of these gags was invented by someone else and we had seen many of them before. We will see them again, and they will reappear in other genres, famously (the mirror-maze at the denouement of “Lady from Shanghai” for example). To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the good ones borrow and the great ones steal.

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1. In what ways does Lloyd use the settings, amusements, and attractions of Coney Island in pursuit of creating original slapstick gags? Be specific.

 

Coney Island should also be considered a character in this film. The food and games are the plot and the gags. When he staggers over to the distorted mirrors to continue the gag and take it in another direction, the spinning tunnel, the milk bottle game, the scene where he appears to be wretching after gorging himself on carnival food. I don't think I've ever seen nausea portrayed so cleverly up until that time.

 

It is also a place to which most people can relate. Who hasn't been to a boardwalk, a carnival or fair? Who hasn't lost all their change on a ride, or eaten too much or knocked into someone by accident? Unlike hanging stories above ground on a clock, here is a Lloyd highly relatable.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Schickel's assessment of Lloyd as more "real" or "freer" of "exaggeration and stylization" than Chaplin or Keaton? Why or why not?

 

In thinking back to our five hallmarks of slapstick Lloyd's interpretations are much less exaggerated and believable. There are no broad gestures and very little violence. Many of the gags he falls victim to or perpetrates on others are based in reality. The man who has his ice cream smashed in his face due to Lloyd's crazy windup is something that could happen to anyone. The crab in his pocket is far fetched but again not that extreme compared especially to Keaton's gags. In this particular clip there really isn't much in the way of stylization other than Lloyd's reactions yet even his reactions are under exaggerated. Even his "costume" blends into the crowd much unlike Chaplin's, Little Tramp.

 

3. In watching this clip, what contributions do you see that Lloyd added to the history of slapstick comedy?

 

In a way Lloyd normalized Slapstick. He looked around for the places and situations that any average person might experience and then fit his gags into them. He did not find it necessary to reinvent the natural world. Because of this, Lloyd's even more so than Keaton's films are a treasure trove, a historic time capsule recording life in the early 20th Century. I love his films for this reason alone even apart from his comedy work.

 

 

 

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For a long time, I've realized how much social, cultural, political & material history I've learned from novels & film. Today's clip is an example of how while enjoying the film for its entertainment value one can also realize an era so unlike our own: clothes, attitudes, ways of moving, types of entertainment, what constitutes adult amusement & so much more. I often suggest that folks watch around the "edges" of a film along w/ the narrative, cinematography, direction, etc. there one might catch glimpses of what would now be historical evidence (I.e., not only the film studies aspects). I hope my comment is clear-- harder to express than I'd expected. ;-D

Your comment is perfectly clear and I totally agree. Whenever I watch the opening credits of, "Welcome Back Kotter" reruns I'm reminded of a Brooklyn that no longer exists.

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By the way, don't forget, there are two other clips from "Speedy" on the same page...

If you look closely at approximately 3:26 in the Babe Ruth clip you'll spy none other than the Iron Horse himself, the great Lou Gehrig looking through the side window. Don't blink or you'll miss him.

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