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


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It is my opinion, that in order to evaluate a film, it is necessary to see it in its original format as presented at the time of release. To see an edited version with sound effects, enhanced color, or music added, makes a big difference. The value of a film is best preserved in its original form. If improvement is deemed necessary, it is best to remake it with a new vision, but leave the original as is.

As you say, Silent films were silent.

I have to repeat here the common quote "silent films were never silent." Musical accompaniment (from piano to full orchestra) was almost always a part of the contemporary audience's experience, and good accompaniment is key for modern audiences to enjoy them fully as well.

 

Of course, that doesn't excuse the kind of exaggerated accompaniment and sound effects that are sometimes found in clips such as these.

 

I will say that as someone growing up in the '60s and early '70s, things like these Youngson compilations were a great treat. It was hard to get to see these films in any format, let alone uncut and properly presented. We're all fortunate for the ongoing work of preservationists and scholars, as well as leaps in technology, that can bring us so close to seeing these films as intended (and with a channel devoted to them).

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One of the interesting questions raised in today's "Daily Doozy" is that the gags in the silent era were completely visual. Of course that's mostly true. However, just as visual humor didn't just disappear with the coming of talkies, silent comedies have their share of verbal humor, with intertitles that could be quite witty. My favorites are "Beanie" Walker's work for the Hal Roach Studios.

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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?"

I must firmly take a place "on the fence" (carefully, so as not to put anyone off, little sight gag humor there).  Based on the argument given in the clip, and considering all the posts written thus far (though there are some pretty good arguments pro and con), I'm unable to decide.
2. Do you agree with the film's narrator that in the silent film era the "gags were completely visual . . .?" 
They were visual, however, could there not be a case made for the following:  that in seeing the gag, there was a psychological reaction prompting the other senses (ie.feeling that 2x4 hit, hearing the splinters flying) that even the musical accompaniment would not create.
3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era?
Like the omnibuses of the past, they offer glimpses into the era that few would ever see without documentary evidence.  
 

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1: I disagree that the era from 1912-1930 constitute comedy's greatest era; I believe that we have had a few such eras, and that time period was one of them.

2: I believe that slapstick evolved with the advent of sound. Along with the gags you now have sound effects to go with those gags.

3: I think that documentaries, compilation films and essays like the example provided help to shed more light on silent films and to bring more popularity to them.

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There is no doubt that it was the Golden age of slapstick comedy. There's also no doubt how imaginative they had to be during silent films to convey the comedy. During this course I can better answer whether or not it was the best years of comedy. Some of the slapstick doesn't make me laugh. Some does. I tend to like a comedy piece that either sets up the character, And then turns into a ridiculous situation. I love observing the silent films because of the great imagination. The great expressions from the actors. . There was no sound. There was no audio dialogue. They really had to think and be very creative to get the gag to work. Something so simple in the movie I just watched recently "singing in the rain" and it's a musical of course, there was a simple scene where A rich man walked by and he was just flipping a big golden coin over and over again that simple movement showed he was rich without words or flaunting it in a verbal way. I love that.

This form of comedy has not disappeared. It has evolved in many ways. Again creating more characters or even plot set up etc. It was a little more simple back then as far as it was a funny visual gag. Charlie Chaplin I think was a lot more thoughtful and how he pushed a storyline as well as the visual comedy. I love looking back at the documentaries and compilations of these film clips. It is history. It is very important to see where it all started.

To share with you a slapstick scenario recently in my life, my friend told me something that happened to him the other night. It got me into the slapstick comedy mode. His story: he was sitting down at the end of the evening with a bowl of Cheerios to eat and go to bed. So he sits at table, puts the bowl down in front of him , starts to dig into a spoonful of Cheerios and Kablooomy! He sneezes in his bowl of cereal the milk flies in his face, the Cheerios fly everywhere, his dog eats up all the cereal that falls on the floor and he walks over to the kitchen sink put down the bowl and walks away in defeat . For some reason I laughed and laughed. I could see it visually. A man just trying to get a little bowl of cereal before he goes to sleep. And it ends in one giant comic sneeze! Love slapstick comedy. PS this may be the longest entry I will contribute. So just relax :-)

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I disagree that this was the "golden age" of comedy. As with any product, the first stage is "pioneering" and this is what I think the early films were. While the performance art now known as slapstick had been around for many years, the use of film to allow the artist to reach many in a movie house instead of few on a theatre was new and experimental. The use of the camera allowed the artist/performer to put the audience where they wanted them. I think the golden age came much later, as the form matured. For example, I just watched one of my favorite comedies, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This film is almost three hours of one gag after another strung together into a cohesive story. And, the end is classic with Ethel Merman slipping on the banana peel. This, I would say is slapstick matured onto feature length film, either in or preaching a "golden age."

 

I do concur that gags in silent film were strictly visual. Although, as pointed out by another post, music or another form of accompaniment was found with silent film, it was not strictly needed. The film stands alone.

 

These compilations allow us to view silent film in the form we expect, that of talking film. The narrator gives us what we expect from film today, sight and sound.

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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 disagree that the silent film era was "comedy's greatest era."  There have been several great and memorable comedies that came after the silent era.  Comedy on film originated with the silents, but this does not automatically make these films superior to the releases that followed.

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?

 

Gags by necessity were visual in the silent era, but the form of comedy did not "disappear."  Visual gags still exist in films but coexist alongside one-liners and other jokes. 

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 the documentaries, etc. helped to introduce the silent comics to new audiences.  Silent films were less appealing for theaters and especially television which has sound.  By showing clips of the films in a documentary which would be broadcast, viewers had an opportunity to see bits of these films. 

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

This kind of categorization reminds me of the film noir course (Summer of Darkness) because many people think of film noir as achieving its heyday in the 1940s.  I think these kinds of statements are easiest to make in retrospect, after any “age” has past. I doubt that Chaplin, Langdon, Lloyd, and Keaton thought they were living in the golden age of comedy. They just knew that they had something people wanted to see and paid money to do so. They were successful at what they did because they could earn a living from their craft. But did intellectuals of the period lump comedians together as popular entertainment and bemoan the masses herding into movie theaters from 1912 to 1930?! I’d like to think that this period is just one in a series of golden ages.

2.  Do you agree with the film’s narrator that in the silent film ear 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 don’t think visual gags have disappeared; I definitely feel like they have evolved in the sound era, and I think they’re still evolving. In Woody Allen’s Sleeper, for example, the banana peel gag still gets a laugh because Woody reinvents it: His character finds huge bananas and slips on their peels trying to harvest them while he and Diane Keaton’s character are on the run. I wish I could think of another, more recent example. Maybe others on this discussion thread will have some to add.

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

I think documentaries, compilation films, and essays can have an enormous impact. Some knowledge about the art form helps to build appreciation for it. Once viewers know the limitations and opportunities afforded by the medium, they can appreciate how silent-era comedians work to take advantage of them.

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Regardless of what is being compared, I see no point in claiming that a particular era is "the greatest." I can't think of a period of time in any art form that does not contain plenty of masterpieces. Instead of trying to rank them, I'd rather spend my time searching out those I haven't yet seen.

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Already this course has given me a deeper appreciation of Woody Allen's Sleeper. So glad I'm not the only who thought of it!

 


GeezerNoir wrote this earlier today: . . . 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. . . ..
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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?

 

Yes and no. Yes, because the era between 1912-1930 started it all, with comedy and the basis revealing itself. You saw the beginning of slapstick and visuality, and the way that today's comedy continues to borrow from the era. No, because comedy has become more broader, and each decade/era has had its fair share of groundbreaking 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?

 

I agree with the first half, since the gags were thought out with in great detail. Sound didn't exist then, so actors had to rely on visual technique and movement. However, in my opinion, comedy has become less subtle, in which more cruder elements increase instead of cleverness and attention to originality. I miss the old days where comedy was based on substance. This is just my opinion.

 

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 the more documentaries and film essays there are, the more film lovers and students are able to see how much film is needed in the world, and how important the silent era is to film history: to see we came from, and where we are going next in the world of moving pictures.

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It's easy to get caught in the nostalgia trap of seeing past experiences as "the golden age" or "greatest era". It's a play on " back in the good old days" everything was so much better than now. I truly enjoy a lot of the silent comedy of 1912 -1930. The constant innovation as these wonderfully creative men and women learned about and developed their tools of comedy didn't stop in 1930, nor did slapstick comedy hatch fully grown in 1912...or 1895. The ancient Greeks used slapstick situations in their comedies. So no, I don't agree with the golden age or greatest era labels. I see this time period as a great leap forward in the evolution of comedy with it's introduction to film making. Suddenly the audience could see and share that slip on the banana peel or that pie in the face, and when we shared it it became even funnier.

If sound technology had been available they probably wouldn't have hesitated to use it to further add to the fun. So I guess I have moved to the second question. I do agree that silent movies weren't really silent. Most had musical scores written to go with them as they were presented to the world. True enough that the gags were visual, but I think it was only because a reliable sound technology wasn't there yet. When sound joined in, slapstick continued in it's evolution as a truly unified comedic discipline. If you think slapstick ever disappeared you had to have been totally cut off from all forms of entertainment. I can't think of a single comedic movie, TV show or, yes, radio program that doesn't has it's slapstick moments. (Think about Fibber McGee's closet...slapstick you can only hear.)

 

And, as for the impact of documentaries, compilation films, essays, etc I can only say, bring 'em on! The more we can see, read about and discuss our wonderful comedic past, the more we keep it alive and enjoyable for all generations, never to be lost. Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Normans and all of the others still have things to show us and make us laugh until it hurts.

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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?

 

As I get older  I can appreciate the pure genius behind the invention of moving pictures and have come to value most nearly everything from fashion to automobiles that were made in the past. That being said, I don't think I would necessarily agree with Agee and Youngson. In fact, with the exception of Mel Brook's "Silent Movie," I don't think that I can say I've laughed nearly as hard watching/reading any of the old movies. When a movie makes me laugh so hard that tears roll down my cheeks, or I have to stop and walk away to compose myself, that is what comedy is-period! Perhaps I haven't seen enough of the silent movies to say that anyone of them strike me as funny as Mel Brooks or Woody Allen films, but either way the title of comedy's greatest era would be an overstatement. Golden age would be more appropriate.

 

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?
It would be too easy to say that the visual nature of gags has all but disappeared, but perhaps at the time Agee & Youngson created their compilation, it may have been true. Comedy relies on gestures and gags so it would be hard to say that these aren't used anymore. It would be better to say that some comedies aren't as funny as others and perhaps that's what they are lacking.

 

I do agree that the gags in the film clips were pretty darn imaginative. I especially like how the film clip revealed to the audience the tricks behind the scenes and then incorporated them into the show.

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

For me, this compilation helps be to better understand an era that I most likely would pass on. In my childhood, I found black & white movies boring and silent films were especially annoying. After watching TCM's summer of noir films last year, I've gained a whole new interest and perspective on black & white movies. My interest in silent films is on the rise too as I continue with this course.

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During the period 1912-1930 film was still a fairly new form of entertainment, and many artists were eager to embrace this new medium. During this time several significant comedic talents happened to be working and competing to make great innovations, and invented ways to expand the boundaries of what had previously been recorded on film. While I admire their contribution and do consider their work a part of a "golden age", it's not as if comedy on film was all down hill from there. In the 100 or so years since we have seen it evolve, sometimes drawing on it's own past and repeating elements that have worked before, and at other times making us laugh in completely new ways. There is always the risk when we look back, as both Agee and Youngson did, that opinions will be shaped by not only what is included in the essay/book/film, but also by what is omitted. History of every aspect of life is, unfortunately, left in the hands of those who will document it.

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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?
 

Yes, I agree it is the Comedy Golden Age.  I feel this way because they had to do more than just tell jokes, they had to show them.  With silent pictures, they had to make it visually funny.  I think that the comedians who performed these feats were some of the firsts at least on film.  Since some of their gags are still done by comedians of today, they would be considered influential at very least.  

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 believe that silent films had to be visual. They had to show not tell their comedy.  I don't believe it is completely gone, but I do believe that today is reliant more on jokes.  Some comedians such as Jim Carrey rely on physical comedy.  His movie, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective was all physical comedy. So I don't think it is completely gone.  It is just evolving.   

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 we see things that are older and tend to revere them.  For example, I love the Looney Tunes Cartoons when I was a young kid, now cartoons are completely different.  I believe that sometimes we have a yearning for days gone by even though there are good things now.  It is also true that we understand things better when we are older.  What we did not fully appreciate several years ago, we can now.    

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Already this course has given me a deeper appreciation of Woody Allen's Sleeper. So glad I'm not the only who thought of it!

 

GeezerNoir wrote this earlier today: . . . 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. . . ..

 

Ha!  Yes, I agree.  Being a big fan of Allen's work, I love that this course gives me a chance and a reason to explore his influences.

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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 to a certain point? While I do believe that Silent films in general are much more impressive because it only involves action, there have been great and memorable comedies after that era. I do admit, now a days, it is something truly rare and unique to see, as comedy has changed throughout time, not just in the media, but with it’s audience as well. What was funny back then to most, might not be so funny to today’s generation.

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?

Again, I agree to a certain degree. The gags created or recreated now a day not only have a twist of “modern” in it, but half of the time, it is so poorly done or turned into something cheap. The purity of the gags before had a depth to them, a sort of purity to them that today’s gags lack. It’s actually stunning when there is a comedy piece not just well done but in good taste as well.

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, at least to a classic movie lover, they hold a powerful impact. Documentaries, compilation films and essays bring to you deeper and enlightening information that helps you see silent movies with bigger and different eyes. At least in my experience, it also motivates me to expand my own knowledge of these classic movies and inspires me to share my love of them films with other movie goers, and in hopes, get new people to see and try a classic movie.

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1. The term "golden age" is problematic, because it all depends on how you define "golden age".  Also, you never realize you're in a "golden age" while you're in it.  It only becomes one in hindsight.  For me, there were several "golden ages", and they all involve comedy shorts, up to about 30 minutes in length.  Hal Roach believed that this was the perfect length, because it was long enough to develop a story and characters, and just enough gags to serve the story.  Once films got longer, you had to stretch and pad and throw in romantic plots and subplots, and the law of diminishing returns sets in.

 

I'd define 1912-1930 as the most fertile period for pre-sound comedy shorts, because there was a high enough demand for short comedy films, to make it worthwhile to create them.  However, I consider films from the years 1912-1921 to be quite primitive, with most of the gags happening fast and furious, without much regard for plot and characterizations.  For me, comedy films didn't really hit their stride until the 1920s, so that's what I'd call the first "golden age" of comedy shorts.

 

I believe the second "golden age" of comedy shorts came after studios figured out how to make comedy shorts with sound.  The trick was not to talk for its own sake, nor to throw out all the great physical comedy in favour of verbal gags, but to integrate both and make the most of what each had to offer.  This would be 1928-1938, but it didn't apply to every comedy film.  In fact, many films of this period (and beyond) make the mistake of being all talk, all the time.  Maybe it's more of a "silver age".

 

 

2.  The gags had to be mostly visual, since there was no soundtrack, but the films weren't silent.  They came with cue-sheets and suggestions for appropriate music and effects for the pianist/organist/orchestra (depending on the size and sophistication of the theatre).  There was dialogue, but it was on title-cards.  Each title card meant cutting away from the action for a few seconds, so people could read the title.  Comedy requires precise timing, so too many inter-titles, or inter-titles held for too long or inserted at the wrong moment, affected the timing of the comedy.  They also added to the expense, since they had to be written by the title-writer and drawn & lettered by hand.

 

 

3.  I have a love/hate relationship with the compilation films of silent comedies, but mostly hate.  First, I resent their attitude of, "Look at the silly, primitive people who think what they're doing is funny."  There's no respect for the source material.  The compilations don't even run them at the correct speed.  They have to be run at sound-speed, which is faster than silent-speed, and makes all the action ridiculously jerky and much too fast.  

 

Even worse, the creators of the compilations believe that silent comedy is so primitive that modern audiences (even the audiences of just 20 or 30 years later) won't be able to grasp it unless a narrator explains everything with a constant stream of "clever" commentary, and throws in obnoxiously over-the-top sound effects.  The commentary makes the narrator (who is also the compilation's producer) the star.  I find this so profoundly irritating that I have to watch these films with the sound off.  Otherwise, the smarmy narration kills the comedy for me.  (This is also why I find Pete Smith films intolerable.)  The creators of the compilations had no respect for the original structure of the source films either, and would re-cut them to suit the "clever" commentary.

 

The only "love" I have for these compilations is that, in some cases, they saved films that would otherwise have been lost.  The epic pie-fight in Laurel & Hardy's "Battle of the Century" was on a rapidly-deteriorating reel of film.  If Robert Youngson hadn't copied it (and, unfortunately, re-cut it in the process) into "The Golden Age of Comedy", it would have been lost forever.  I'm also grateful that this compilation film and its sequels re-introduced Laurel & Hardy and other largely-forgotten comedy stars to a new generation of viewers and film-critics who began to study them properly, and with the respect they deserved.

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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?

 

"To me this criticism sounds somewhat dated. I think perhaps a better way to describe this era is as 'bed rock' or 'foundation' of cinematic comedy which continues to evolve into the present day."

 

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?

 

"Comedy is not disappeared but rather evolved. That is not to say that comedy in the silent air was primitive. In fact, a better way to refer to it would be 'classical' in its form. And in the modern era we have added to it this classical interpretation of wit and whimsy mixing it in a post modern cocktail."

 

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

 

"They preserve the past for future generations. It is important to understand a film's real time reception in order to arrive at any contemporary analytical interpretation."

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One thing that does disturb me about these courses—even though they may not be taken seriously by most people, and that is fine—is that they are so dependent upon these “comment” sections and so many people simply ignore the comments. Given that a lot of the comments can be passed by for many reasons, most are worthy of being read and responded to because they either express a valid opinion or state important factual information. That being said, and I being one who reads all the comments, it is clear that most people are not bothering to read or are simply ignoring, after having read, the information or opinions being shared by others. Which is a pity, to say the least, since this opportunity is being afforded us for a specific learning purpose, free of charge, while many people are working their buns off for our sake. It is not here for entertainment value alone, no matter how entertaining it may be.

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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?

 

Yes, I agree it is the Comedy Golden Age.  I feel this way because they had to do more than just tell jokes, they had to show them.  With silent pictures, they had to make it visually funny.  I think that the comedians who performed these feats were some of the firsts at least on film.  Since some of their gags are still done by comedians of today, they would be considered influential at very least.  

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 believe that silent films had to be visual. They had to show not tell their comedy.  I don't believe it is completely gone, but I do believe that today is reliant more on jokes.

 Some comedians such as Jim Carrey rely on physical comedy.  His movie, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective was all physical comedy. So I don't think it is completely gone.  It is just evolving.   

 

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 we see things that are older and tend to revere them.  For example, I love the Looney Tunes Cartoons when I was a young kid, now cartoons are completely different.  I believe that sometimes we have a yearning for days gone by even though there are good things now.  It is also true that we understand things better when we are older.  What we did not fully appreciate several years ago, we can now.    

 

Jim Carrey is another good example. I posted about the giant banana scenes in Woody Allen's Sleeper and was hoping others would write about other examples. Thanks for your post.

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It's easy to get caught in the nostalgia trap of seeing past experiences as "the golden age" or "greatest era". It's a play on " back in the good old days" everything was so much better than now. I truly enjoy a lot of the silent comedy of 1912 -1930. The constant innovation as these wonderfully creative men and women learned about and developed their tools of comedy didn't stop in 1930, nor did slapstick comedy hatch fully grown in 1912...or 1895. The ancient Greeks used slapstick situations in their comedies. So no, I don't agree with the golden age or greatest era labels. I see this time period as a great leap forward in the evolution of comedy with it's introduction to film making. Suddenly the audience could see and share that slip on the banana peel or that pie in the face, and when we shared it it became even funnier.

If sound technology had been available they probably wouldn't have hesitated to use it to further add to the fun. So I guess I have moved to the second question. I do agree that silent movies weren't really silent. Most had musical scores written to go with them as they were presented to the world. True enough that the gags were visual, but I think it was only because a reliable sound technology wasn't there yet. When sound joined in, slapstick continued in it's evolution as a truly unified comedic discipline. If you think slapstick ever disappeared you had to have been totally cut off from all forms of entertainment. I can't think of a single comedic movie, TV show or, yes, radio program that doesn't has it's slapstick moments. (Think about Fibber McGee's closet...slapstick you can only hear.)

 

And, as for the impact of documentaries, compilation films, essays, etc I can only say, bring 'em on! The more we can see, read about and discuss our wonderful comedic past, the more we keep it alive and enjoyable for all generations, never to be lost. Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Normans and all of the others still have things to show us and make us laugh until it hurts.

 

Another example of slapstick evolving. I'm not familiar with this one myself, but another example all the same! Thanks for your post.

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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?

 

As I get older I can appreciate the pure genius behind the invention of moving pictures and have come to value most nearly everything from fashion to automobiles that were made in the past. That being said, I don't think I would necessarily agree with Agee and Youngson. In fact, with the exception of Mel Brook's "Silent Movie," I don't think that I can say I've laughed nearly as hard watching/reading any of the old movies. When a movie makes me laugh so hard that tears roll down my cheeks, or I have to stop and walk away to compose myself, that is what comedy is-period! Perhaps I haven't seen enough of the silent movies to say that anyone of them strike me as funny as Mel Brooks or Woody Allen films, but either way the title of comedy's greatest era would be an overstatement. Golden age would be more appropriate.

 

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?

It would be too easy to say that the visual nature of gags has all but disappeared, but perhaps at the time Agee & Youngson created their compilation, it may have been true. Comedy relies on gestures and gags so it would be hard to say that these aren't used anymore. It would be better to say that some comedies aren't as funny as others and perhaps that's what they are lacking.

 

I do agree that the gags in the film clips were pretty darn imaginative. I especially like how the film clip revealed to the audience the tricks behind the scenes and then incorporated them into the show.

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

For me, this compilation helps be to better understand an era that I most likely would pass on. In my childhood, I found black & white movies boring and silent films were especially annoying. After watching TCM's summer of noir films last year, I've gained a whole new interest and perspective on black & white movies. My interest in silent films is on the rise too as I continue with this course.

Really enjoyed your responses. I agree with most of not all of your thoughts. Humor has definitely evolved and not necessarily for the better. I think the funniest stuff I've seen in movies are the gags involving self-embarrassment where the real Humor is reflecting on one's own short comings but not being ashamed of it but rather putting it out there for the universe. I cried from laughter in Will Ferrel and John C. Reply bits from Taladega Nights and Step Brothers. I will say this I cannot see John C. Reily as a serious performer any longer. He is way too good at playing straight in the silliest of circumstances. Probably my favourite quote was when he referred to grandpa's comment as "kind of creepy ain't it!" It's a different almost obnoxious humor we see by today's standards where as the artistry was self reflection whether silly, awkward, off putting, or otherwise. The Humor is more selfish seems to be the evolution. We are in 'selfie' times by society's standards. All the fans of yesteryears comedy escape the modern when we tune in to silent slapstick, or situational screwball. True standard or test of comedy should be do we laugh so much and so hard that we cannot contain ourselves...

 

Just more thoughts :)

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