Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Rob Farr » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:26 am

The fact that post-war compilation features like Gaslight Follies, Variety Time and Down Memory Lane made heavy use of silent comedy clips suggests that there was an interest in this kind of stuff even before Agee's article came out. Within a year or two after Agee, anyone with a television could see hundreds of silent comedies retrofitted with music tracks. Even Ham & Bud had a TV revival thanks to Marlu Television! Most folks in this group weren't even born in 1949, but less reading Life magazine. If anything, our young sensibilities were formed by the holy triumvirate of Youngson, Everson and Maltin with booster shots of Funny Manns to make sure the addiction took hold.
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Richard M Roberts
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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:22 am

Rob Farr wrote:The fact that post-war compilation features like Gaslight Follies, Variety Time and Down Memory Lane made heavy use of silent comedy clips suggests that there was an interest in this kind of stuff even before Agee's article came out. Within a year or two after Agee, anyone with a television could see hundreds of silent comedies retrofitted with music tracks. Even Ham & Bud had a TV revival thanks to Marlu Television! Most folks in this group weren't even born in 1949, but less reading Life magazine. If anything, our young sensibilities were formed by the holy triumvirate of Youngson, Everson and Maltin with booster shots of Funny Manns to make sure the addiction took hold.




Absolutely, in fact, the real truth that the Nitratevile Nitwits are completely clueless about is the fact that silent comedies really never went away from public view, always remaining in some form or another. As far as television is concerned, the Weiss Brothers were selling prints of their short comedies to television from 1947 on, Milton Menell was supplying the Howdy Doody Show with silent comedy footage from 1949 on, the Doody Show ran a daily silent comedy spot for years, ten minutes of a silent comedy on NBC five days a week! Think that didn’t influence a whole generation of youthful comedy fans? Then Menell syndicated hundreds of silent comedy shorts through Mar-Lu Telefilms that saw action on regional kids shows across the Country, then Charlie Tarbox’s Film Classic Exchange joined in as well syndicating kid comedies and other silent comedy material. Then it was the MISCHIEF MAKERS, COMEDY CAPERS, FUNNY MANNS, CHUCKLEHEADS, etcetera, et cetera, on through the sixties. A whole new generation of silent comedy fans had grown up and was primed to make Robert Youngson’s GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY a surprise hit in 1958.

However, the eternally clueless that populate and pollute Nitratevile also never come close to realizing that silent comedy had another venue that kept them before a lot of public eyes even in the 1930’s and 40’s and that was the growing and popular home-movie and non-theatrical markets. The successful Kodascope Libraries and Bell and Howell Show-at-Home rental companies, along with literally hundreds of other rental companies nationwide kept these films in circulation for decades! And what were the most popular films in those libraries catalogs: comedies and westerns, a majority of them silent. Those films were shown in schools, churches, public libraries, the YMCA (who had several of the largest 16mm rental libraries in the country), amusement parks, bars, restaurants, and living rooms all over the US where and when home movie enthusiasm was hitting it’s peak, post-WW2 and through the 50’s and 60’s. Everyone who grew up in that era will remember a parent of family member with a 16mm or 8mm projector who would have a Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy reel in among the Family Kodachromes, or rented Kodascope reels from the local camera store. What does one think the reason all those lovely Kodascope prints we hold so dear today were made for? Silent comedies looked just fine on the mostly-silent Kodascope projectors that sold like hotcakes back then.

One could even buy those films outright, remember, all those home movie suppliers like Castle, Official, Blackhawk, Film Classics Exchange, et all have histories extending back sometimes even into the late 1920’s, the last two starting as rental libraries and moving into the printing and selling of vintage movie material even before WW2 and prospered because, in those days before television, home movies did indeed become a popular fad, and continued for quite awhile, and the faces of silent comedy continued to be familiar to new generations even in these “dark ages” before Mr. Agee’s supposed enlightenment.

So no, Mr. Agee did not single handedly revive interest in Silent Comedy, that article came out in Life Magazine’s September 5, 1949 issue, then disappeared until seeing book form in 1952 in AGEE ON FILM II, a book that did not sell worth a damn until reprints for film studies classes in the 1960’s, and by then, the interest in Silent Comedy was in it’s fullest bloom. Mr. Agee’s influence was small indeed, one Chaplin and one Lloyd reissue, and no major clamors for further theatrical pulls from those libraries for years to come, and to say Agee is responsible for the resurgence of Buster Keaton’s career is absolute piffle.

One man and one man alone was responsible for Buster Keaton’s return to national and international fame and that was Buster Keaton, who had already started working in television before Agee’s article came out and as an early and rather talented pioneer in that medium found himself in demand, not because of Agee’s article, but because he was one of the funniest things on early television and the older folk did indeed remember him. The renewed interest in Keaton’s silent work, apart from sporadic showings of THE GENERAL and THE NAVIGATOR at MOMA and the Eastman House (and as Mr. Hayde said, that at the time being barely a step or two up from being the equivalent of the “ubernerds watching 16mm movies in their basements”) didn’t happen until the early 60’s, and by then Keaton had already become a national figure and busily working celebrity again.

So we’ll leave Mr. Agee and COMEDY’S GREATEST ERA to the academics and the Nitratevile Nincompoops who ape them, both groups too narrowly focused to look beyond and too ignorant and unwilling to see the big historical picture so would rather worship what is indeed, a quaint, but very outdated piece, and the tiny pocket of a very big comedy film industry it discussed. They deserve no better.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Tommie Hicks » Wed Mar 11, 2015 2:03 pm

Let us not forget those pizza parlors that showed all of those silent comedies. The Denver Public Library had nearly every Blackhawk silent comedy in small gauge which was one of the greatest blessings of my young life.

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:10 pm

Tommie Hicks wrote:Let us not forget those pizza parlors that showed all of those silent comedies. The Denver Public Library had nearly every Blackhawk silent comedy in small gauge which was one of the greatest blessings of my young life.


The pizza parlors came a little too late to use as an arguement against Agee, but during the nostalgia boom of the late 60's-early 70's they were indeed a major place to see silent comedy. I had a Straw Hat, a Shakey's, and a Village Inn Pizza Parlor within bike-riding distance from my home then and made a weekly circuit to all three to see some amazing stuff at the time. Before that, there were other restaurants that showed silent comedies as well.

And yes, film collections were indeed a part of most major-city public libraries, we had not only a public library collection of 8mm and 16mm prints, with many Blackhawks, but there was also a state film library with a fine selection of Hollywood features, as well as every Laurel and Hardy and many Blackhawks. Todays public libraries barely even have books.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Matt Barry » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:11 pm

Richard M Roberts wrote:
The pizza parlors came a little too late to use as an arguement against Agee, but during the nostalgia boom of the late 60's-early 70's they were indeed a major place to see silent comedy. I had a Straw Hat, a Shakey's, and a Village Inn Pizza Parlor within bike-riding distance from my home then and made a weekly circuit to all three to see some amazing stuff at the time. Before that, there were other restaurants that showed silent comedies as well.

And yes, film collections were indeed a part of most major-city public libraries, we had not only a public library collection of 8mm and 16mm prints, with many Blackhawks, but there was also a state film library with a fine selection of Hollywood features, as well as every Laurel and Hardy and many Blackhawks. Todays public libraries barely even have books.

RICHARD M ROBERTS


Even later, as a young kid in the '80s, there was a restaurant that my parents would take me to, called The Ground Round, that would run silent comedies on a screen in the background. I only have dim memories of it, but it certainly sparked my fascination with those films, and within a few years led me to seek out whatever I could learn about them.

I was also fortunate that the public library near where I grew up had occasional 16mm film screenings, including an evening of silent comedy. It was a great way to see some of the films I'd read about but that were not easily accessible to me on video or TV.

It's interesting -- I didn't realize that there were several of these pizza parlor chains that had silent films as part of the entertainment. We had a Shakey's, but they didn't show movies (or at least had stopped by the time I started going there). I suspect there must be quite a few silent comedy fans who can trace their early interest in it back to those places.
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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Gary Johnson » Thu Mar 12, 2015 3:58 pm

It seems pretty clear that there was no one driving factor in silent comedies revival. Home movies, TV and theatrical programs, museum showings and the written word all helped keep the memory alive of a lost art. But I will add one more factor -- the arrival of the Baby Boomers. Before we all arrived on the scene, interest in silent film was more of a nostalgia craze by the same hard core, dedicated generation who was exposed to those films firsthand. But that interest never truly grew beyond the Flapper Generation. While some in the WWII Generation embraced past films, it was nothing like the tsunami that struck our generation. We were in the perfect situation at the right time. Constant exposure to films that were considered relics at that time and a curiosity over things past that was sated by a new generation of film historians.

And now it seems to have come full circle as our generation is rapidly aging and our interests do not seem to translate well with the current Generations. This situation has been hashed over many times here, but I'm a firm believer in what came around, comes around again. And if history has a pattern, it looks like a few generations will need to be skipped before another revival will occur.

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Mar 31, 2015 3:44 pm

Well, we have an award-winner from one of Nitratevile's best and brightest, Mr. Entrederriere' on being told most silent film fans hated MIchael Polher's score for THE PENALTY:

"Well, most silent film fans and Nitratevillains love the puerile antics of Buster Keaton & Harpo Marx, whereas all I see (having watched Baloonatics last night) is tiresome, insipid, stupid, amusement for kiddies, so I won't, in this instance either, be abashed to share metaphorically one side of Thoreau's pumpkin."


Need we say more?

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Joe Migliore » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:19 am

Richard M Roberts wrote:
Well, we have an award-winner from one of Nitratevile's best and brightest, Mr. Entrederriere' on being told most silent film fans hated MIchael Polher's score for THE PENALTY:

"Well, most silent film fans and Nitratevillains love the puerile antics of Buster Keaton & Harpo Marx, whereas all I see (having watched Baloonatics last night) is tiresome, insipid, stupid, amusement for kiddies, so I won't, in this instance either, be abashed to share metaphorically one side of Thoreau's pumpkin."


Need we say more?


"BetweenTwoEars" is right: The only noble reason to watch any Keaton short is to see if his leading lady flashes some elbow.

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Re: Richard M.Roberts Banned from Nitrateville

Postby Mike O'Regan » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:47 pm

I'm sure you're aware of my opinion of BK, so I'll not trouble you with it.

But, Harpo Marx....I'll defend him to the bitter end against all and sundry coming from any angle!


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