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Silent era influences on other genres beyond slapstick?


AMadCapHeiress
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Since we’ve been reading about the strong bond between the silent slapstick era and the talkie slapstick era, I couldn’t help wondering if the silent comedians who pioneered slapstick helped influence other cinematic genres, also.

 

While watching Lloyd's feature film, Speedy, I was struck by the populist genre elements mixed into the narrative. Although the film is lighthearted on the surface, there's a sinister, underlying tension caused by the "big guy" trying to take down the "everyman" (aka the grandfather who runs a horse drawn streetcar). What’s interesting to me is that the story isn’t simply about one person taking on a bully. In the third act, it evolves into a story about a group of people (the Civil War vets and Lloyd) who come together to defeat an evil businessman. The ending celebrates the many, rather than the individual. Compared to Keaton and Chaplin, the addition of a group of allies seems like an atypical silent comedy plot device (I always think of Chaplin/Keaton defending themselves without help). 

 

After watching Dr. Gehring’s interview on Lloyd, I wondered if there’s a connection between Lloyd’s films/his everyman persona and 1930's/1940's populism. Dr. Gehring mentions Lloyd as an Upton Sinclair type and also discusses Lloyd's PR overkill in the 1920’s—his persona also seems to link very closely with the populist film genre.

 

Conversely, I was struck by the similarities between Keaton’s stone faced gags and the dark comedy genre. As Dr. Gehring mentions, Keaton’s The General was essentially a comedy about death. The humor in the film was ahead of its time (the absurdity of life, etc). Keaton’s stone faced reactions to the destruction around him could almost be compared to Bud Cort’s stone faced portrayal of Harold in the 1971 dark comedy, Harold and Maude, and other performances in quintessential 1970’s dark comedies. 

 

Could Keaton and Lloyd (and Chaplin) have influenced future popular genres beyond the realm of slapstick? I'd be interested to know if anyone has read in depth on this topic. 

 

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