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A Companion to Film Comedy

Andrew Horton (Editor), Joanna E. Rapf (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3859-1
584 pages
December 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
A Companion to Film Comedy (1444338595) cover image


A wide-ranging survey of the subject that celebrates the variety and complexity of film comedy from the ‘silent’ days to the present, this authoritative guide offers an international perspective on the popular genre that explores all facets of its formative social, cultural and political context

  • A wide-ranging collection of 24 essays exploring film comedy from the silent era to the present
  • International in scope, the collection embraces not just American cinema, including Native American and African American, but also comic films from Europe, the Middle East, and Korea
  • Essays explore sub-genres, performers, and cultural perspectives such as gender, politics, and history in addition to individual works
  • Engages with different strands of comedy including slapstick, romantic, satirical and ironic
  • Features original entries from a diverse group of multidisciplinary international contributors
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Table of Contents

Notes on Editors and Contributors ix

Comic Introduction: ‘‘Make ’em Laugh, make ’em Laugh!’’ 1

Part I Comedy Before Sound, and the Slapstick Tradition

1 The Mark of the Ridiculous and Silent Celluloid: Some Trends in American and European Film Comedy from 1894 to 1929 15
Frank Scheide

2 Pie Queens and Virtuous Vamps: The Funny Women of the Silent Screen 39
Kristen AndersonWagner

3 ‘‘Sound Came Along and OutWent the Pies’’: The American Slapstick Short and the Coming of Sound 61
Rob King

Part II Comic Performers in the Sound Era

4 MutiniesWednesdays and Saturdays: Carnivalesque Comedy and the Marx Brothers 87
Frank Krutnik

5 Jacques Tati and Comedic Performance 111
KevinW. Sweeney

6 Woody Allen: Charlie Chaplin of New Hollywood 130
David R. Shumway

7 Mel Brooks, Vulgar Modernism, and Comic Remediation 151
Henry Jenkins

Part III New Perspectives on Romantic Comedy and Masculinity

8 Humor and Erotic Utopia: The Intimate Scenarios of Romantic Comedy 175
Celestino Deleyto

9 Taking Romantic Comedy Seriously in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Before Sunset (2004) 196
Leger Grindon

10 The View from the Man Cave: Comedy in the Contemporary ‘‘Homme-com’’ Cycle 217
Tamar Jeffers McDonald

11 The Reproduction of Mothering: Masculinity, Adoption, and Identity in Flirting with Disaster 236
Lucy Fischer

Part IV Topical Comedy, Irony, and Humour Noir

12 It’s Good to be the King: Hollywood’s Mythical Monarchies, Troubled Republics, and Crazy Kingdoms 251
Charles Morrow

13 No Escaping the Depression: Utopian Comedy and the Aesthetics of Escapism in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take it with You (1938) 273
William Paul

14 The Totalitarian Comedy of Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be 293
Maria DiBattista

15 Dark Comedy from Dr. Strangelove to the Dude 315
Mark Eaton

Part V Comic Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity

16 Black Film Comedy as Vital Edge: A Reassessment of the Genre 343
Catherine A. John

17 Winking Like a One-Eyed Ford: American Indian Film Comedies on the Hilarity of Poverty 365
Joshua B. Nelson

18 Ethnic Humor in American Film: The Greek Americans 387
Dan Georgakas

Part VI International Comedy

19 Alexander Mackendrick: Dreams, Nightmares, and Myths in Ealing Comedy 409
Claire Mortimer

20 Tragicomic Transformations: Gender, Humor, and the Plastic Body in Two Korean Comedies 432
Jane Park

21 Comedy ‘‘Italian Style’’ and I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958) 454
Roberta Di Carmine

22 ‘‘Laughter that Encounters a Void?’’: Humor, Loss, and the Possibility for Politics in Recent Palestinian Cinema 474
Najat Rahman

Part VII Comic Animation

23 Laughter is Ten Times More Powerful than a Scream: The Case of Animated Comedy 497
Paul Wells

24 Theatrical Cartoon Comedy: From Animated Portmanteau to the Risus Purus 521
Suzanne Buchan

Index 545

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Author Information

Andrew Horton is the Jeanne H. Smith Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Oklahoma, USA. An award-winning screenwriter, he is also the author of twnty-eight books on film, screenwriting and cultural studies, including Screenwriting for a Global Market (2004), Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay (2nd edition, 2000), and The Films of Theo Angelopoulos (2nd edition, 1999). His screenplays include Brad Pitt’s first feature film, The Dark Side of the Sun (1988), and the award-winning Something in Between (1983), directed by Srdjan Karanovic. He has led screenwriting workshops around the world as well as across the United States.

Joanna E. Rapf is Professor of English and Film & Media Studies at the University of Oklahoma, USA. She writes regularly about film comedy, with recent essays on Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Roscoe Arbuckle, Harry Langdon, and Marie Dressler, and has edited books on a range of subjects including Sidney Lumet, On the Waterfront, and Buster Keaton.

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“And of course, it very much is. An important subject needs an important companion.  This is it. That’s all, folks.”  (Reference Reviews, 1 January 2014)

“This work is indispensible for any student or scholar who, in the spirit of Rabelais, Swift, and Chesterton, will laugh while studying film images. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 July 2013)


“’Make 'em laugh!’ may be a Hollywood musical imperative, but exactly how to make em' laugh-- and what it means when they do-- is harder to figure out. For this provocative, eclectic, and, yes, amusing compendium of essays, editors Andrew Horton and Joanna E. Rapf have corralled a gifted ensemble of comic-minded film scholars to ruminate over the pratfalls, wisecracks, and zany antics that--from custard-pie-thick one-reelers to sappy rom-coms--have left motion picture audiences rolling in the aisles and rolling their eyes. In examining the mechanics and cultural meanings of the serious business of film comedy, the essayists herein tackle a dizzying array of laugh-inducing  genres (slapstick, screwball, sophisticated, ethnic, and gross-out, to name a few) and people  (Charles Chaplin, Ernest Lubitsch, Jacques Tati, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Ben Stiller, to name a very few).  Best of all, the essays in this film companion are themselves all sharp-witted and good-humored: in dissecting film comedy, they manage not to kill the patient.”
- Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University

“An impressive array of our best critical thinkers and an invaluable spectrum of comedians from Max Linder to Jim Carrey – it’s a vital, challenging addition to film comedy studies."
- Ed Sikov

“The most wide-ranging collection on the topic to appear in years, this volume features essays by both leading scholars and new voices that will both redefine and expand the ways we think about many kinds of film comedy and the artists who create it.”
 –Matthew H. Bernstein, Emory University

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