Cover image for Comedy is a man in trouble : slapstick in American movies
Comedy is a man in trouble : slapstick in American movies
Dale, Alan S., 1960-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 270 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.C55 D35 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Comedy Is a Man in Trouble traces the legacy of physical humor from the performances of vaudeville actors and circus clowns to its ongoing popularity in the films of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Alan Dale worked at a Los Angeles talent agency before earning a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton University. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Slapstick has always been a film staple, and Dale (writing and American studies, Princeton) presents a history of cinematic slapstick, which he defines as an elemental aspect of existence...a fundamental, universal, and eternal response to the fact that life is physical. This is a selective, appreciative survey of the diverse masters of physical comedy, from Charlie Chaplin (with emphasis on his later Great Dictator), stone-faced Buster Keaton, all-American nice guy Harold Lloyd, the Marx Brothers, writer-director Preston Sturges, and French cult-favorite Jerry Lewis. Rejecting the notion that slapstick necessarily involves pathos, the author deftly combines criticism and biography, offering keen insight and lively prose. He notes that studio bosses believed that men rejected female clowns because they didn!t laugh at attractive women, yet Dale makes a compelling case for Katharine Hepburn as a breakthrough slapstick artist. This book is a fine addition to public and academic libraries, deserving a place next to Walter Kerr!s The Silent Clowns (Da Capo Pr., 1990. reprint) and other classics on film comedy."Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

More than an appreciation of a genre, this title makes a case for an approach that goes beyond historical encapsulating, beyond the greatest-hits-lists style characteristic of books on this topic. Although he admires Walter Kerr's The Silent Clowns (CH, Apr'76), Dale treats the subject as an ongoing event and offers a top-practitioner list that runs from Chaplin and Keaton to Jerry Lewis, who is crowned in the last chapter. Believing that the silent era was not a single peak, Dale explains how the slapstick era evolved into "screwball" talkies. In the silent era, humor was visually projected. Dale argues that producers preferred having more control over filmmakers via the written script, and he offers a definition of verbal slapstick as dialogue at breakneck speed, retorts, and sarcastic asides. Obvious camp in melodrama also served the comedian's purpose. Opposed to Christian theology's view of the body as debasing the soul, slapstick is a concession to the body, a "temporal acc eptance of physicality by a cathartic exaggeration of its very limitations." Writing in a wholly accessible style, Dale concludes that the old style should oppose that which attempted literary elevation (e.g., City Lights). Paradoxically, this slant makes of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H a masterpiece. Generous bibliography and suitable references. All collections. A. Hirsh emeritus, Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
1. Comedy Is a Man in Troublep. 1
2. Chaplin as Proteus, Low-Down and High Upp. 31
3. Junior: Harold Lloyd and Buster Keatonp. 59
4. Girl Heroesp. 92
5. The Marx Brothers: The Buoyant Refuse of Our Teeming Shorep. 132
6. Preston Sturges: Girl in a Jam, Boy in a Jamp. 161
7. Jerry Lewis: The Once and Future King of Comedyp. 190
Codap. 213
Notesp. 221
Works Citedp. 237
Indexp. 247