Mack Daddy, Daddy Mack

[Slapsticon, the greatest film event of the year, has been canceled this year.  To grieve it, I am devoting the entire month of July to posts about slapstick comedy.]

He was the Roger Corman of comedy.  A miserly skinflint whose extraordinary ability to identify and nurture talent made his studio THE jumping-off point for more superstars than anywhere else.  The litany of film greats who started here, even if they went on to achieve greatness elsewhere, is astonishing—not to mention all the has-beens and already-ares who cycled through his orbit as well.

But Mack Sennett’s films remain difficult territory for film fans.  Call him the King of Comedy if you wish, but a great many of his productions fall flat to today’s audiences, or require a patience or mindset that only the most dedicated fan can muster.  Seeing as I am one of those patient, dedicated fans, I offer up here a tribute to—and primer on—the man who invented American slapstick.

He started at DW Griffith’s Biograph,  an aspiring actor.  During the years 1908-1913, Griffith directed some 450 films—most of them one-reelers, all of them silent.  A fair number were identified as “farces,” but the exact figure is hard to pin down.  Not all farces were self-identified as such, which leaves it up to interpretation: what is a farce?  I might find something funny you don’t, and vice-versa.  So, let’s put down an estimate of 150 or so Biograph comedies.  The number I have in front of me is actually 152, but that seems weirdly specific for a figure I’ve just said is a fudge, so I’m rounding down to an even 150.

The biggest hit of these farces—and indeed the biggest Biograph hit of any genre—was THE CURTAIN POLE, in which Mack Sennett was cast as a clumsy idiot whose havoc knows no bounds.  It’s built around just one joke—if you hold a long pole horizontally, it will whallop people in the head—but if you do the same joke over and over for 10 minutes, it becomes something superlative.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is what slapstick looks like:

[wpvideo vQQY2rVT]

Griffith knew enough to keep making CURTAIN POLE-ish farces, since audiences paid good money to see them, but he didn’t much enjoy making them himself.  Griffith thought such tawdry nonsense was beneath a serious artist, and his talents were better suited to directing domestic melodramas and adaptations of classic literature.  He figured since Mack seemed to have a feel for this kind of thing, he could delegate the comedies to him altogether.

Meanwhile, Sennett couldn’t quite figure out what Griffith was even talking about.  Serious art?  Are you kidding me? Griffith’s films ran a scant ten minutes and made no allowance for the actors to ever even speak.  You can “adapt” all the classic literature you want, but the absurd limitations of the form (at that time) were destined to undermine you.  At least, that’s how Sennett saw it.  He thought Griffith’s melodramas were already so pretentious as to border on the ridiculous—it wouldn’t take much to push them over the edge.

Sennett’s farces, first at Biograph and then later at his own studio Keystone, differed little from the Griffith template.  He used the same situations, the same character types.  But he would exaggerate everyone into some ludicrous extreme.

It’s not that Sennett was unsuited to making Griffith-style art: THE LONELY VILLA, hailed as the first full-blown example of Griffith’s “cross-cutting” was scripted by Mack.  But Sennett and Griffith were operating on wholly different levels.  On long walks together, Griffith would elaborate on his theories of how cinema should evolve, how he could use cinematic devices like editing to elide the less important bits so as to fit longer stories into the available running time, how he could use other devices like close-ups to emphasize the good bits.  In these same walks, Sennett merely kept harping on how funny cops could be.

[wpvideo tlU23tFy]

Exactly where the idea for the Keystone Kops came from is unclear.  Too many alternate theories and competing anecdotes have been told.  Many of these anecdotes are terrific (I especially like the one in which Sennett was stuck outfitting his police characters with ill-fitting costumes because Griffith had taken all the good ones already, and the result prompted the Chicago police department to issue a formal complaint.  Sennett was delighted, and decided to stick with the misfit uniforms).  But the fact is funny cops predate Sennett, both in film and vaudeville, so worrying too much about origins is a fool’s game.

[wpvideo uoyEIyxq]

The Keystone template as it now emerged was this: a mischief-maker causes some havoc, and the Kops descend on him to restore order.  The mischief-maker could be any force of selfish wickedness—a Ford Sterling, for example.  But the reason these old Ford Sterling shorts seem so odd to us today is we’re accustomed to looking for something that wasn’t there yet—we’ve become inclined by the later development of slapstick comedies to expect our identification and sympathy to align with the star.  But there’s no reason to root for Ford Sterling—he’s a bastard.

(Sorry the clip below is silent.  As in, like, literally silent.  This was to have been included on AMERICAN SLAPSTICK VOLUME 3, but I never produced that set, so this never got scored with a soundtrack)

[wpvideo snqIzq1E]

The point isn’t to root for him, but to revel in the catharsis of absolute social disorder.  Authority is defied, social norms violated—this is rebellion, packaged as entertainment.  This is rock and roll, circa 1914.

I mean that—the appeal of slapstick comedy was for its era comparable to the safe rebellion of rock and roll.  It was a way of rebelling against a system that you actually still had to live and function within.  Few rockers ever really dropped out—fewer still their fans—which is why they now seem so odd in their 60s and 70s as establishment figures.  They sold the illusion of rebellion.

Sennett gave audiences a space to gather in mixed groups, mingling classes and races and genders, and laugh in communion at the foolishness of authority figures, at the absurdity of social graces, at the overwhelming silliness of life.

That, and he hired some amazing comedians.

Chaplin, obviously.  And once, just for kicks, Sennett put himself on camera alongside his new star.  THE FATAL MALLET, which Sennett also directed, finds Charlie stealing away Mack’s girlfriend Mabel Normand.  You watch this thing today for the historical curiosity of seeing Mack and Charlie side by side, pummeling each other.

[wpvideo hNF4lCyM]

But there’s a weird undercurrent here, a troubling subtext: Mabel was Mack’s great unconsummated love, Charlie was a disruptive intruder whose presence was realigning Mack’s relative power and influence over others.  Maybe things would have turned out differently if, during their contentious contract negotiations, they’d just taken out some big-ass hammers and had at each other.

But Chaplin was just the biggest name among big names–Sennett also had Harold Lloyd, long before he put on his famous glasses, before he even played “Lonesome Luke.”  Below is an excerpt from COURTHOUSE CROOKS, chosen because you get to see a portrait of the artist as a young man.  Here’s Lloyd doing what he would always do—running.  This is quite possibly the earliest and most seminal appearance of anything resembling the Harold Lloyd we would come to know later.  (Again, the clip is truly silent–this is another AMERICAN SLAPSTICK VOLUME 3 refugee)

[wpvideo wyv9XAtq]

By the 1920s, this preternatural ability to spot talent had too often come into conflict with his inability to pay people what they were worth.  He’d lost Lloyd, who went on to become one of the greatest box office draws of the age.  He’d lost Chaplin, who went on to become THE greatest box office draw of the age.  He’d lost Roscoe Arbuckle and Charley Chase—and the list goes on.

So when he saw the bidding war going on for the truly bizarre vaudeville star Harry Langdon, Sennett made sure he won that war and gave the nutty little man space to do his thing.  Chaplin hadn’t just left over money—he’d chafed against the restrictions on his creative freedom.  Langdon would have no such cause to complain.

By way of including Langdon here, I want to share a clip from SHANGHAIED LOVERS (one of only two extant Langdon silent shorts missing from my LOST AND FOUND DVD box set—this was recovered after I’d published the set.  Thanks to Dave Stevenson, whose web site LOOSER THAN LOOSE I’ve plugged before, this clip actually has a soundtrack.).  But it takes some set-up: Leaving their wedding and en route to their honeymoon, Harry and his bride are separated when pirates shanghai Harry.  The intrepid wife disguises herself as a man and joins the crew, finagling her way to be close to Harry and even to be assigned to the same bunk.  Which would be terrific for our shanghaied lovers, ‘cepting for the fact that in the world of Harry Langdon movies, the most cursory and idiotically incompetent effort at cross-dressing manages to completely hoodwink everyone.  So, the girl’s utterly ludicrous fake moustache convinces even Harry that she’s really a burly dude.  Which leads to some gay panic jokes:

[wpvideo 1Xl5uBSh]

One major comedian that Sennett didn’t employ was Buster Keaton, but they worked together nonetheless.  This was during Buster’s time at Educational in the early 1930s, after Sennett’s various studios had imploded and vanished.  Mack was hired to direct Buster in the two-reeler THE TIMID YOUNG MAN.  It’s an odd but amiable blend of the two men’s differing comic aesthetics.

The clip below isn’t the best part of the movie, or even the most representative, but I selected it because it’s a virtual remake of Sennett’s earlier Harry Langdon short, THE HANSOM CABMAN, and as such shows the commingling of Sennett’s and Keaton’s worlds more succinctly than some of the later (funnier) bits of the same film:

[wpvideo gH1AhvtR]

So, that’s Mack in a nutshell.  Not a bad legacy for a failed actor.

26 Responses Mack Daddy, Daddy Mack
Posted By Tom S : July 9, 2011 1:56 pm

It’s interesting, whatever auteurist star you watch who got his start at Keystone- Chaplin, Langdon, Arbuckle, even Chase to some degree- seems to have gone through the same arc, where the first few shorts were pretty interchangeable Keystone bits of hitting on bathing beauties, cops running around, frenetically undercranked action etc, and then they create this independent voice that pushes through the Keystone material more and more. The early ones are weirdest with Langdon, whose own voice couldn’t possibly be further from the Keystone standard, but all of them seem to have been an uneasy fit there.

So, basically, I wonder why it was that Keystone was such a fruitful place for all of them? Was it just that Sennett didn’t much care how closely you adhered to formula as long as you made money, or that any place with a movie camera would have pushed them equally well? Or did the Keystone formula actually inspire people further somehow?

Posted By Tom S : July 9, 2011 1:56 pm

It’s interesting, whatever auteurist star you watch who got his start at Keystone- Chaplin, Langdon, Arbuckle, even Chase to some degree- seems to have gone through the same arc, where the first few shorts were pretty interchangeable Keystone bits of hitting on bathing beauties, cops running around, frenetically undercranked action etc, and then they create this independent voice that pushes through the Keystone material more and more. The early ones are weirdest with Langdon, whose own voice couldn’t possibly be further from the Keystone standard, but all of them seem to have been an uneasy fit there.

So, basically, I wonder why it was that Keystone was such a fruitful place for all of them? Was it just that Sennett didn’t much care how closely you adhered to formula as long as you made money, or that any place with a movie camera would have pushed them equally well? Or did the Keystone formula actually inspire people further somehow?

Posted By Medusa Morlock : July 9, 2011 5:11 pm

At least Jerry Herman tried to put Sennett’s story to music in his unsuccessful but legendary “Mack and Mabel” musical which I saw in its original Los Angeles run oh so long ago (mid ’70s!). That’s quite an honor — the musical, not my seeing it! lol

Great post and thanks for the Sennett primer for those of us who aren’t as familiar with him as we should be!

Posted By Medusa Morlock : July 9, 2011 5:11 pm

At least Jerry Herman tried to put Sennett’s story to music in his unsuccessful but legendary “Mack and Mabel” musical which I saw in its original Los Angeles run oh so long ago (mid ’70s!). That’s quite an honor — the musical, not my seeing it! lol

Great post and thanks for the Sennett primer for those of us who aren’t as familiar with him as we should be!

Posted By JeffH : July 9, 2011 9:20 pm

I think the reason that Sennett’s film factory was so germinal to the comic greats who got their start with him was that they had to think on their feet while the camera was rolling and push themselves to come up with gags and business on the fly to keep up with everyone else. Chaplin was the greatest at this-all you have to see for proof is the section of UNKNOWN CHAPLIN when he was working at Mutual and his literal “rehearsing on film,” instead of having a bunch of gag writers on set or working in a room above the office, like Sennett did.

Keaton was a little more methodical. He even said that if they had a good beginning and the right ending, the middle would take care of itself. This worked for him, and brilliantly. Lloyd was more of a great comic actor who had astounding gagmen working for him and other behind-the-scenes people who worked with him to come up and develop his classics. Langdon relied more on his team of people like Frank Capra and Harry Edwards, without realizing that the character that made him so beloved was created for him, not by him. If you want proof of that, watch THE STRONG MAN, with Capra and his team then watch THREE’S A CROWD, which Langdon made after he fired Capra-there is no comparison. Chase was one of the great comedy directors-he made Leo McCarey into the man who would direct the Marx Bros. and Bing Crosby to greatness, and if he had lived, who knows what Chase could have contributed to the golden age of TV.

Posted By JeffH : July 9, 2011 9:20 pm

I think the reason that Sennett’s film factory was so germinal to the comic greats who got their start with him was that they had to think on their feet while the camera was rolling and push themselves to come up with gags and business on the fly to keep up with everyone else. Chaplin was the greatest at this-all you have to see for proof is the section of UNKNOWN CHAPLIN when he was working at Mutual and his literal “rehearsing on film,” instead of having a bunch of gag writers on set or working in a room above the office, like Sennett did.

Keaton was a little more methodical. He even said that if they had a good beginning and the right ending, the middle would take care of itself. This worked for him, and brilliantly. Lloyd was more of a great comic actor who had astounding gagmen working for him and other behind-the-scenes people who worked with him to come up and develop his classics. Langdon relied more on his team of people like Frank Capra and Harry Edwards, without realizing that the character that made him so beloved was created for him, not by him. If you want proof of that, watch THE STRONG MAN, with Capra and his team then watch THREE’S A CROWD, which Langdon made after he fired Capra-there is no comparison. Chase was one of the great comedy directors-he made Leo McCarey into the man who would direct the Marx Bros. and Bing Crosby to greatness, and if he had lived, who knows what Chase could have contributed to the golden age of TV.

Posted By Tom S : July 9, 2011 10:30 pm

Haha, I think Kalat might argue with you about who authored the Langdon character- if you listen to his commentary on Three’s a Crowd, or Becoming Harry Langdon, he argues that Capra’s story was a self-serving myth and that Three’s a Crowd understood Langdon’s character really well, and just chose to push it to an almost punishing degree. Certainly, the Langdon character has clearly emerged in the shorts long before Capra & co were writing for him, so it’s a difficult story to believe.

Posted By Tom S : July 9, 2011 10:30 pm

Haha, I think Kalat might argue with you about who authored the Langdon character- if you listen to his commentary on Three’s a Crowd, or Becoming Harry Langdon, he argues that Capra’s story was a self-serving myth and that Three’s a Crowd understood Langdon’s character really well, and just chose to push it to an almost punishing degree. Certainly, the Langdon character has clearly emerged in the shorts long before Capra & co were writing for him, so it’s a difficult story to believe.

Posted By JeffH : July 10, 2011 2:28 am

I remember seeing THREE’S A CROWD at Cinevent years ago. The screening room was packed-the film had not been seen in years and had recently been rediscovered. The film began and-to me-the longest 60+ minutes of my life. The room was quiet for a while, then you could hear the restlessness creeping in. After about 15 minutes the walkouts started, and by the time the only real laugh in the film occurred (the crash at the end) I would say that about 1/3 of us were left and I even heard a few “Finallys!” when the end title faded out. I’m sorry, but this film gives lie to the statement that all old films are classic-not all of them. As far as Capra’s statements, other books on him and Langdon have diluted his influence but you have to admit that the three features and the group of shorts they made together are way more entertaining than the two surviving features made after Langdon fired Capra or the Roach talkie shorts.

Posted By JeffH : July 10, 2011 2:28 am

I remember seeing THREE’S A CROWD at Cinevent years ago. The screening room was packed-the film had not been seen in years and had recently been rediscovered. The film began and-to me-the longest 60+ minutes of my life. The room was quiet for a while, then you could hear the restlessness creeping in. After about 15 minutes the walkouts started, and by the time the only real laugh in the film occurred (the crash at the end) I would say that about 1/3 of us were left and I even heard a few “Finallys!” when the end title faded out. I’m sorry, but this film gives lie to the statement that all old films are classic-not all of them. As far as Capra’s statements, other books on him and Langdon have diluted his influence but you have to admit that the three features and the group of shorts they made together are way more entertaining than the two surviving features made after Langdon fired Capra or the Roach talkie shorts.

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 1:04 pm

Well, the Roach talkies are a whole different matter, but I actually really do enjoy Three’s a Crowd- it’s just that it’s not really a comedy. In any case, you’re ignoring the shorts Langdon made before he started collaborating with Capra, which are excellent.

I’m not going to deny that Capra made a contribution- I think his work with and after Langdon is great- but this idea of Langdon as a borderline case who didn’t understand his own art is really cruel to a terribly creative and intelligent artist.

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 1:04 pm

Well, the Roach talkies are a whole different matter, but I actually really do enjoy Three’s a Crowd- it’s just that it’s not really a comedy. In any case, you’re ignoring the shorts Langdon made before he started collaborating with Capra, which are excellent.

I’m not going to deny that Capra made a contribution- I think his work with and after Langdon is great- but this idea of Langdon as a borderline case who didn’t understand his own art is really cruel to a terribly creative and intelligent artist.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : July 10, 2011 1:59 pm

On long walks together, Griffith would elaborate on his theories of how cinema should evolve, how he could use cinematic devices like editing to elide the less important bits so as to fit longer stories into the available running time, how he could use other devices like close-ups to emphasize the good bits. In these same walks, Sennett merely kept harping on how funny cops could be.

That’s perfect. Someone should make a movie about the two of them (just not Richard Attenborough!).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : July 10, 2011 1:59 pm

On long walks together, Griffith would elaborate on his theories of how cinema should evolve, how he could use cinematic devices like editing to elide the less important bits so as to fit longer stories into the available running time, how he could use other devices like close-ups to emphasize the good bits. In these same walks, Sennett merely kept harping on how funny cops could be.

That’s perfect. Someone should make a movie about the two of them (just not Richard Attenborough!).

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 2:41 pm

I wonder if you could make a movie about Griffith that didn’t wind up emphasizing the fact that, by modern terms, he was a pretty horrible racist

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 2:41 pm

I wonder if you could make a movie about Griffith that didn’t wind up emphasizing the fact that, by modern terms, he was a pretty horrible racist

Posted By JeffH : July 10, 2011 6:15 pm

I think a fascinating film could be made about Griffith, and to hesitate because of his racism would be to deny part of his character. It would be great if HBO or Showtime would consider a 13-part series on him-I think it would take that long to really tell his story. It took Kevin Brownlow 3 hours to tell it in a documentary, and the making of BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE would each take at least an hour. Perhaps a series about that crucial period of 1913-1920 when Hollywood was born and the US became the movie capitol of the world, then you could have all the founding fathers and mothers that pretty much built the industry and guided it for the next forty years.

Posted By JeffH : July 10, 2011 6:15 pm

I think a fascinating film could be made about Griffith, and to hesitate because of his racism would be to deny part of his character. It would be great if HBO or Showtime would consider a 13-part series on him-I think it would take that long to really tell his story. It took Kevin Brownlow 3 hours to tell it in a documentary, and the making of BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE would each take at least an hour. Perhaps a series about that crucial period of 1913-1920 when Hollywood was born and the US became the movie capitol of the world, then you could have all the founding fathers and mothers that pretty much built the industry and guided it for the next forty years.

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 6:23 pm

That could be fascinating- something almost like an art-oriented Boardwalk Empire, taking the time to establish the entire milieu that informed Griffith’s personality and artistry, could really have some value. I think if you tried to cram it into the length of a normal biopic, it would be difficult to confront the horrible aspects of who he was and what he did without totally overwhelming what the man was and did as an artist.

Although I think it would be difficult to convey to people how important his work was- out of context, Griffith stuff tends to look painfully dull and old-fashioned, or (for something like Intolerance) monumentalist with nothing to back it up.

Posted By Tom S : July 10, 2011 6:23 pm

That could be fascinating- something almost like an art-oriented Boardwalk Empire, taking the time to establish the entire milieu that informed Griffith’s personality and artistry, could really have some value. I think if you tried to cram it into the length of a normal biopic, it would be difficult to confront the horrible aspects of who he was and what he did without totally overwhelming what the man was and did as an artist.

Although I think it would be difficult to convey to people how important his work was- out of context, Griffith stuff tends to look painfully dull and old-fashioned, or (for something like Intolerance) monumentalist with nothing to back it up.

Posted By Noah T : July 12, 2011 7:45 am

I can’t resist butting in here to say that I think that Three’s a Crowd is quite simply Langdon’s crowning achievement–the film in which the poetic nature of his persona was able to fully flourish. But, like Tom S pointed out, it’s not really a comedy, or at least not a film that is going to make you burst out in laughter. To be honest, it’s probably the most depressing slapstick film ever made.

I also have to disagree with the consensus that The Strong Man is Langdon’s best feature. It has some wonderful gags and set pieces (among the best of his career) but seen as a whole I find it to be bogged down at times with a nagging sense of easy sentimentality and moralism that–to make a potentially simplistic hypothesis–seems to belong more to Capra than Langdon. Too much of the running time is dedicated to Mary Brown and the conflict going in the town, during most of which Langdon is almost entirely banished off screen.

Posted By Noah T : July 12, 2011 7:45 am

I can’t resist butting in here to say that I think that Three’s a Crowd is quite simply Langdon’s crowning achievement–the film in which the poetic nature of his persona was able to fully flourish. But, like Tom S pointed out, it’s not really a comedy, or at least not a film that is going to make you burst out in laughter. To be honest, it’s probably the most depressing slapstick film ever made.

I also have to disagree with the consensus that The Strong Man is Langdon’s best feature. It has some wonderful gags and set pieces (among the best of his career) but seen as a whole I find it to be bogged down at times with a nagging sense of easy sentimentality and moralism that–to make a potentially simplistic hypothesis–seems to belong more to Capra than Langdon. Too much of the running time is dedicated to Mary Brown and the conflict going in the town, during most of which Langdon is almost entirely banished off screen.

Posted By Tom S : July 12, 2011 2:33 pm

I think part of the issue with Three’s a Crowd is that Langdon was technically speaking kind of a shaky director at that point- it doesn’t have the smoothness of someone who’s cranked out dozens of shorts- which makes it easy to see it as a failure. And it is really, really strange, so if I were trying to convince someone to be a Langdon fan, it’s not where I’d start- it’s sort of the Punch Drunk Love of silent comedy.

(Although I actually did watch Three’s a Crowd first- I didn’t realize Langdon was known as a slapstick, and read it as an art movie.)

Posted By Tom S : July 12, 2011 2:33 pm

I think part of the issue with Three’s a Crowd is that Langdon was technically speaking kind of a shaky director at that point- it doesn’t have the smoothness of someone who’s cranked out dozens of shorts- which makes it easy to see it as a failure. And it is really, really strange, so if I were trying to convince someone to be a Langdon fan, it’s not where I’d start- it’s sort of the Punch Drunk Love of silent comedy.

(Although I actually did watch Three’s a Crowd first- I didn’t realize Langdon was known as a slapstick, and read it as an art movie.)

Posted By DBenson : July 12, 2011 8:51 pm

Keystone was born in an era when film itself was 90% of the novelty — It was a while before any kind of nuance ever registered, much less got a laugh. It’s interesting to look at late silent/early sound cartoons and see how they clumsily had to rediscover the basics as well, even though the animators had the latest and best work by the great silent clowns to study (and study they did, intently).

As for Langdon, the rap seems to be that he aspired to “pathos” and failed. If you look at “Three’s a Crowd” and “The Chaser” as flat-out eccentric comedies instead of plays for sympathy, they work better. And if you look at his sound shorts for Roach (TCM ran a smattering of them a while back), he doesn’t seem interested in being loved or even liked. Maybe Capra craved emotional impact — he certainly milked emotions in his own work — but Langdon went after the laugh more than pity.

It’s worth noting that aside from Chaplin and Lloyd, most of the major comics seemed to have audience sympathy forced on them, usually as a byproduct of feature length films. The friendship between Stan and Ollie could be touching for an instant, but violence would befall one or both before you had a chance to say “aw.”

Posted By DBenson : July 12, 2011 8:51 pm

Keystone was born in an era when film itself was 90% of the novelty — It was a while before any kind of nuance ever registered, much less got a laugh. It’s interesting to look at late silent/early sound cartoons and see how they clumsily had to rediscover the basics as well, even though the animators had the latest and best work by the great silent clowns to study (and study they did, intently).

As for Langdon, the rap seems to be that he aspired to “pathos” and failed. If you look at “Three’s a Crowd” and “The Chaser” as flat-out eccentric comedies instead of plays for sympathy, they work better. And if you look at his sound shorts for Roach (TCM ran a smattering of them a while back), he doesn’t seem interested in being loved or even liked. Maybe Capra craved emotional impact — he certainly milked emotions in his own work — but Langdon went after the laugh more than pity.

It’s worth noting that aside from Chaplin and Lloyd, most of the major comics seemed to have audience sympathy forced on them, usually as a byproduct of feature length films. The friendship between Stan and Ollie could be touching for an instant, but violence would befall one or both before you had a chance to say “aw.”

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art Direction  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Black Film  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films About Gambling  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies