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About cpelfrey

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  • Birthday August 5

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    Northport, NY
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    Film, writing, art, movies, drama.
  1. 1. How well does Alan Dale's definition of verbal slapstick fit the Marx Brothers? They're masters of slapstick, and perhaps the best I've ever seen. They use the physical and verbal forms of slapstick that are incredibly famous and watchable today. Their work is timeless. 2. Can you identify specific "characteristic gags" that Groucho and Chico use in their on-screen performance of this extended verbal slapstick gag? Chico always relies on the silly ( but crafty) Italian immigrant, which in itself is ironic because they"re Jewish. And Groucho tries to play straight, but is really the one driving the show. He also thinks he's being crafty, but in the end Chico gets the last laugh. 3. Which of the five conditions we associated with visual slapstick comedy (exaggerated, physical, repetitive/ritualistic, make believe, painful/violent) remain operative in the use of verbal slapstick in the movies? Exaggerated: Not being able to see/hear/read the contract. Costumes. Ripping of contract. Physical, lesser here, but exaggerated tearing up of contract and Groucho's sarcasm with Chico's feigned inability to read and laughter. Repeitive: Dual contract tearing Make believe: The whole scene is silly Painful/violent: Not so much here.
  2. 1. There's a lot we don't know from this clip ( the crab, the tire marks?) but I loved how he used montage to go from ride to ride--most of which we can imagine but do not see today. For whatever reason, I thought the gag in the tunnel, where the couple is in the tunnel by themselves and all the stuff is falling out of their pockets, and handbag, and hat was very funny and relatable. Also, in Chaplin and Keaton, you do not see groups of people, so that's unique. He's also trying to impress a girl, and fails miserable although she is such a good sport. It was really funny after he ate all that fair junk food, it looked like he was vomiting, but he was just doing another stunt. Very cute. 2. More real or freer? Well Chaplin felt compelled to keep his Tramp persona. In that way, though he is legendary and successful, he did limit himself to that character. So, in a way, that may be true. I think the difference between LLoyd and Keaton, is that Keaton devised his own stunts (clocktower?), but Lloyd puts himself in the "real world" often relying on others in his world to help with gags. And a lot of times women, like his partner here. But I also saw him in another movie where he takes a job at a department store and the women--the workers and the customers, run him absolutely ragged. In that sense he has more flexibility to place his character in different settings in ways Chaplin and Keaton would not or could not. 3. Lloyd brings the world, the setting, into his gags. They're more open, and though he's the star, he's not the only one who is funny. He's a bit more generous in this sense. It may also just be something that occurred because of technological advances, but LLoyd gets closer to what we see now as the 90 minute comedy film we know today.
  3. 1. I love Buster Keaton. I always wonder if he lived with a lot of pain later in life. Must have been rough. Anyway, he obviously had great charisma and timing. His wife was also helpful, as the last gag of putting the sheet music on the piano was hilarious. I think she helped in this skit more than the man in the ceiling. That was a bit of a detractor. The acting and stunts are superb. And , this idea, that he's ruining his house by trying to build it is pretty close to home (as they say) to a lot of people. I think that narrative adds to the humor. Also liked the indoor/outdoor effect. 2. Charlie Chaplin relies on his persona more than Keaton. Keaton loves these stunts, and that frightening quality is thrilling. everyone loves it today when they know it's real. Everybody loves the actor who does his/her own stunts. Chaplin captures hearts. He is able to be lovable, but a bit selfish, but hten generous, all in a few minutes. Chaplin's charisma was palpable. Keaton is good, but physically he's great. 3. I think what actually is hilarious in this and many other silent era comedies, is that all the characters are really trying to be nice to each other and do what's right. However, inadvertently they are physically killing each other. Keaton hears the man's cries for help. He goes to help, not knowing he caused this man's predicament. And when he tries to help he fails. Then when the wife sees the piano in the house, she's thrilled, even though Keaton has nearly killed himself and he's wrecked the roof and floor. But they're both trying to be nice to each other. So, that was funny, too. Their intentions are true; their reality is pratfall and danger everywhere. But the audience often gets to see that dramatic irony more than the players. So that helps it become more interactive, too, which is fun.
  4. 1. Modern comedy has so many other props, music, sets, costumes, and the need for continuous narrative, but the rich narrative of the silent era were intense and brief. It also required viewers to watch very closely, and uninterrupted. After all, you can cut into an episode of Seinfeld and also check your mail or play Words with Friends. You cannot do that with Chaplin or Keaton. You must watch closely. Obviously, this was known to them consciously, so to keep viewers viewing, the very good actors and directors worked at creating scene, narrative, stunt/spectacle, and also appeals to emotion (love that sausage eating dog) to keep us interested for 6-12 minutes. 90 minute comedies have to keep the gags going. Also, in skit comedy, like SNL, where the skits can be short, we also know the skits are hit and miss, sometimes for seasons, and it's not until you get the right actors and writers together that it all works. After all, how many actors did these stunts silent film? We are only watching the best. Until we get to Groucho. 2. I believe in narrative. Narrative, that is fluid, recognizable, and comes to a natural conclusion is always pleasing. Also, the characterization of the Tramp is nice, even when he's doing naughty things. Plus there's a bit with the dog. I sort of felt a bit of sympathy for the food vendor. He's obviously not rich either. But it was great when the cop gets hit with the skillet, not Tramp. So, timing is also important in this scene. 3. A "gag" like this, or I prefer the term "skit", informs future comedy in at least two ways. As I said before, even though this is quite short, there is a clear narrative with precise timing. As they say, timing is everything. In addition, there is a clear vision of characterization. So, often in our "modern" comedies, we have "stock" characters. The crazy but clueless dad, the moody teenager, the drunk party girl, the bachelor party, the bachelorette party, strangers thrown together to create a farce and they become a true family in the end. We can all think of many, many examples with these characters in them. So we don't have "the tramp", but all of can think of movies that have supposed "losers" who triumph in the end. Chaplin made the tramp a genius. But Louis CK, Homer Simpson, Tina Fey, all adapt personas that are very familiar to all who watch. CHaplin just did it first, and arguably, best.
  5. I liked the concept of slapstick progression and I think it has a lot to do with the individual actor, artistic freedom, and, frankly, the physical ability. This is going to be fun! And, yes, girls can do and watch slapstick. Think of Lucy! Madeline Kahn! All of the female SNL cast! I have seen slapstick fail when the woman is the butt of the joke, or if the behavior doesn;t match the character (Meg Ryan in French Kiss, for example). But, it can be totally successful and has been in all different times. Can anyone think of other awesome slapstick women?
  6. I don't think Violence necessarily has to be a part of slapstick. Yes, the tree stooges and even Bugs Bunny used violence as a technique. However, when I think of the Marx Brothers, and Saturday NIght Live (in many instances) they meet all the criteria except that they are not particularly violent. Silly, unrea, silly, wide , and wordy, but not necessarily violent. And is a prat fall violent or just a fall? If no one pushed you, it's not a violent situation. Just thinking.
  7. Even the Marx Brothers first film was basically a filming of their vaudeville act. So, I agree, there was a lot of slapstick even before film. And its universal. Everyone laughs when the professor gets a pie in the face, or slips in the mud, or gets stuck in cruise cabin. I love this class! I loved the Film Noir class, I learned a lot, but i'm a big fan of slapstick. My brothers and I used to watch Mel Brooks movies over and over again. Hooray for Captain Spalding!
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