Posts Tagged ‘comedy’
Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some (“Too difficult to produce”) were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others (“Not interesting”).
Essanay, named after the initials of its founders George Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, made Westerns and comedies from its Uptown Chicago headquarters and in California. (Its specialty in the Western explains the use of a stereotyped “Indian chief” head as logo.) Charlie Chaplin was a contract player for the company between 1915–1916 and made The Tramp while he was there. Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Wilmington suggests that Chaplin’s departure for a more lucrative contract in 1916 “hastened Essanay’s demise,” causing “a fatal rupture” between the two founders struggling with a sudden loss in income…
More (from the always-fascinating Rebecca Onion) at “A Harsh, but Efficient, Form Rejection Letter for Silent Film Screenwriters.
* Louis-Ferdinand Celine
As we inoculate our egos, we might spare a thought for Abel Gance; he died on this date in 1981. While Essanay was developing the comedic form, Gance– a French film director, writer, producer, actor, and theorist– was working across the Atlantic to lay the foundation for cinema as we’ve come to know it. One of the first to employ close-ups and dolly shots, he was instrumental in developing both the theory and the practice of montage as it came to be employed in film editing. He is probably best remembered for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).
For more on the history of the postcard, see the Richard Carline work cited here.
As we mail it in, we might say the magic word and collect $100, as it’s the birthday of Groucho Marx, born this date in 1890.
From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.
– To S.J. Perelman
PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER
– telegram to the Friar’s Club
Linotype typecasting machines revolutionized publishing when they were invented in 1886, and remained the industry standard for nearly a century after. The first commercially successful mechanical typesetter, the Linotype significantly sped up the printing process, allowing for larger and more local daily newspapers. In Farewell, etaoin shrdlu (the latter portion of the title taken from the nonsense words created by running your fingers down the letters of the machine’s first two rows), the former New York Times proofreader David Loeb Weiss bids a loving farewell to the Linotype by chronicling its final day of use at the Times on 1 July 1978. An evenhanded treatment of the unremitting march of technological progress, Weiss’s film about an outmoded craft is stylistically vintage yet also immediate in its investigation of modernity…
* Thomas Edison, speaking of the linotype machine
As we agree with John O’Hara that “hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm,” we might spare a thought for a communicator of a very different sort, Arthur Duer “Harpo” Marx; he died on this date in 1964. A comedian, actor, mime, and musician, he was the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. Harpo was a master of both the clown and pantomime traditions; he wore a curly reddish blonde wig, never spoke during performances, and of course, played the harp in each of the Marx Brothers’ films. A man of wide and varied friendships, he was a member of the Algonquin Roundtable.
“If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise”*…
Your correspondent is off on a whistle tour of the Midwest. While altogether auspicious, it packs what may be too many stops into too few days… Thus, regular service will likely be interrupted until late this month… See you all again as Independence Day approaches. Meantime, something to keep you amusedly occupied…
A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late -19th and early-20th centuries. The site is browsable by actor, character, and play.
In the 19th century, scholar Lawrence W. Levine writes, many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage… in the first half of the 19th century, theater “played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.”…
Those who only know the postcards of today can scarcely be expected to appreciate what they meant to people sixty or more years ago. Many of us seldom think of buying a picture postcard, except as a matter of convenience; but during the quarter of a century that preceded the Great War in 1914, it would have been hard to find anyone who did not buy postcards from genuine pleasure…
* George Orwell
As we bark the Bard, we might recall that it was on this ate in 1910 that Florenz Ziegfeld, in a blow against racial prejudice, opened the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production. Williams was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called him “one of the great comedians of the world.” Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.”
From the Marx Brothers to The Simpsons, from Richard Pryor to Amy Schumer: “The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy“… critique it, argue with it– that’s what lists like this are for– but most of all, enjoy it.
* Osgood (Joe E. Brown) to Daphne/Jerry (Jack Lemon), Some Like It Hot (one of the 100)
As we fiddle with our funny bones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a film that might well have made the list– Modern Times— was released. Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who stars in his iconic Little Tramp persona, the film comically dramatizes a factory worker’s struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world. Chaplin’s first overtly politically-themed film, it was also the first in which his voice is heard. It is widely regarded as a classic by film historians… and inspired French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merlau-Ponty to name their journal, Les Temps modernes, after it.