Definitions of Silent Comedy

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Kris Shoemaker
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Definitions of Silent Comedy

Postby Kris Shoemaker » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:38 am

Please, what is the definition and distinct and or subtle differences between:

- Farce Comedy
-Slapstick Comedy
-Screwball Comedy

Can and do they overlap?
What are some classic Silent Comedy examples of these three genres?

Thank you.

Rob Farr
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Re: Definitions of Silent Comedy

Postby Rob Farr » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:27 pm

As in the debate over film noir, there can be many opinions, but I'll give you examples that most people agree exemplify the three types of comedy you listed:
- Farce Comedy: Lots of misunderstandings, running in-and-out of bedroom doors, disguises and hiding behind screens. Good example: The Italian Straw Hat.
- Slapstick Comedy: Depends on physical assault and people having various indignities visited upon them. Rawest form of slapstick might include the 3 Stooges, but the form can rise to great heights as with Buster Keaton and his contemporaries.
- Screwball Comedy: William K. Everson made the case that Charley Chase's silent shorts really established the form, at least in film. For talkie examples watch It Happened One Night, My Man Godfrey and The Awful Truth. Common tropes include madcap heiresses falling for a strong common man and learning a lesson about how "real" people live.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Kris Shoemaker
Cugine
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Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:34 am

Re: Definitions of Silent Comedy

Postby Kris Shoemaker » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:10 pm

Thanks Rob for helping me out.

So, if I understand you correctly,

Sometimes it boils down to subtle differences.

Farce Comedy - A common theme is mistaken Identity and one situation evolving into another, one problem compounding into another. In a Farce Comedy there are multiple players and subplot upon plot by which evolve from various sight gags. Where several situations mingle together in one big misunderstanding. I have seen this in quite a few Charlie Chase and Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle films. Even the title cared on many Charlie Chase films will say "A Farce Comedy" at the bottom.

Slapstick - Physical Comedy and site gags. As far as silent comedies go it would comprise of Keaton and Chaplin. It seems the Three Stooges, though "Talkies" are best known for this.

Screwball Comedy - Okay, I can see how some of Charlie Chase Comedies can be called Screwball. But are we mainly talking talkies when it comes to screwball? Like the Marx Brothers and Jerry Lewis and such?

Clearly they can blend and bleed into each other despite any given comedy being more of one genre than another.

Bob Birchard

Re: Definitions of Silent Comedy

Postby Bob Birchard » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:54 pm

Kris Shoemaker wrote:Screwball Comedy - Okay, I can see how some of Charlie Chase Comedies can be called Screwball. But are we mainly talking talkies when it comes to screwball? Like the Marx Brothers and Jerry Lewis and such?

Clearly they can blend and bleed into each other despite any given comedy being more of one genre than another.


Screwball comedy is strictly a sound form, the period in which the term was created, and it does not involve eccentric comics like Marx Brothers or Jerry Lewis. Screwball comedy is a form of romantic comedy in which mis-mated lovers overcome obstacles to ultimately come together. It differs from standard romantic comedy in subtle, not easily defined ways. Often the comedy is set against real (or at least realistic) social issues. None of the Charley Chase films would qualify as screwball comedies. It is generally understood that the genre begins ca. 1934 with films like The Cat's Paw (Lloyd plays a much more realistically grounded character here), The Thin Man, and most importantly It Happened One Night. Typically the "screwball" antics of one of the partners is designed to force the couple to be together until both can come to their senses in time for the final on-screen clinch (as in Bringing up Baby) or continuing argument (as in Libeled Lady). Usually, though not always, one of the couple is rich and spoiled and the other is of modest means and democratic (with a small "d"). Think Claudette Colbert (rich heiress) and Clark Gable (out of work reporter) in It Happened One Night, or Katharine Hepburn (rich girl) and Cary Grant (struggling scientist) in Bringing Up Baby. The couples in these films are evenly matched in terms of strength of character and wit, however. Although often the couples come together for the first time within the narrative, it is equally common for the couple to have been married and split up before the story begins (The Awful Truth, My Favorite Husband). What distinguishes "screwball" from other romantic comedies is that there s generally a physical comedy component along with the banter in screwball films.

to further define "screwball" by representative titles not mentioned above:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
My Man Godfrey
The Awful Truth
Theodora Goes Wild
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Palm Beach Story
The Lady Eve
Practically Yours
Suddenly It's Spring


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