The Silent Clowns [book review]

The Silent Clowns, by Walter Kerr

Product description of The Silent Clowns

The Silent Clowns, by Walter KerrThis book is both a scholarly study of silent comedy movies, and an illustrated guide to the major comedians for the general reader. It covers such characters as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy. The author is one of America’s foremost film and theatre critics. He treats the subject of film comedians with much affection, and includes many anecdotes and stories. He is also a lucid theorist, attempting to explain how and why we laugh.

Review of The Silent Clowns

The Silent Clowns is a very interesting book, that’s a mixture of photo journal and analysis of the silent film clowns – how it works, why it worked, and why each clown’s character.  Mr. Kerr’s insights are very enlightening, even if I don’t always agree with his conclusions.  Having said that, I do recommend the book.  The Silent Clowns is a very good read.  Not an easy read, but a good one.

Table of Contents in The Silent Clown

Part One – The Silent Camera

  1. The Pickford Paradox and the Choice of Silence
  2. The Unique Experience
  3. The Fact in the Fantasy
  4. The Fantasy in the Fact
  5. Fantasy Interrupted: Music and the Dancing Image
  6. Serious Film: The Disadvantages of Silence

Part Two – Comedy Reborn

  1. Comedy in Search of Freedom
  2. Sennett: The Insensitive Male Carpenter
  3. Chaplin: An Outline Becomes a Character
  4. Chaplin: Playfulness Unleashed
  5. Harold Lloyd: Hard Work
  6. The Roach Lot: A Bit More Method in the Madness
  7. An Inquisitive Keaton and a Generous Arbuckle
  8. The Keaton “No”
  9. Keaton: Exploring the Gap Between Life and Lens
  10. The Keaton Curve: A Study in Cooperation

Part Three: The Struggle Toward Maturity

  1. The Risks of Length and Complexity: Chaplin Takes the Plunge
  2. The Chaplin Breakthrough: Making Seriousness Funny
  3. Chaplin: Betwixt and Between
  4. Lloyd: The Virtuous Filmmaking of the Virtuous American
  5. Lloyd: Architect of Sympathy
  6. The Keaton Quiet
  7. Keaton as Film
  8. Keaton: The Girl and the Grave
  9. Two Epics
  10. Who Was Harry Langdon?
  11. Langdon: Creating an Ambiguity
  12. Langdon: The Ambiguity Dissolves
  13. The Demiclowns
  14. The Unexpected Raymond Griffith
  15. Missing Film

Part Four – The Twilight Dance

  1. Laurel and Hardy: The First Turnaround
  2. Laurel and Hardy: The Second Turnaround
  3. The Transition, After and Just Before: A Self-conscious Chaplin
  4. Chaplin Confronts Himself
  5. The End Without an Ending: Chaplin Defines the Road

Editorial review of The Silent Clowns courtesy of Amazon.com

This book is both a scholarly study of silent comedy movies, and an illustrated guide to the major comedians for the general reader. It covers such characters as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy. The author is one of America’s foremost film and theatre critics. He treats the subject of film comedians with much affection, and includes many anecdotes and stories. He is also a lucid theorist, attempting to explain how and why we laugh.

 

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