American silent film comedies were dominated by sight gags, stunts and comic violence. With the advent of sound, comedies in the 1930s were a riot of runaway heiresses and fast-talking screwballs. It was more than a technological pivot--the first feature-length sound film, The Jazz Singer (1927), changed Hollywood. Lost in the discussion of that transition is the overlap between the two genres. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd kept slapstick alive well into the sound era. Screwball directors like Leo McCarey, Frank Capra and Ernst Lubitsch got their starts in silent comedy. From Chaplin's tramp to the witty repartee of His Girl Friday (1940), this book chronicles the rise of silent comedy and its evolution into screwball--two flavors of the same genre--through the works of Mack Sennett, Roscoe Arbuckle, Harry Langdon and others.
Introduction: The History of the History of Silent Comedy
First Things First, but Not Necessarily in That Order
Buster Keaton vs. the History of Comedy
Why Don’t You Say Something to Help Me?
The Back of Joan Crawford’s Head
Downton Valley, or Ruggles Conquers the West
F. W. Murnau’s Comedy Masterpiece
The Unexpected Comedy Stylings of Alfred Hitchcock
Ernst Lubitsch Forgives Himself
Ginger Rogers, Sad Saks of Fifth Ave.
The Love Song of Captain McGloo
Sturges After Sturges (or, the Keystone Pipeline)