David Kalat
David Kalat If you ask where I'm from, I have to give an essay in response: I was born in Philadelphia, lived briefly in Atlantic City and then Durham, before spending most of my childhood and formative years in Raleigh, NC. I went to college at the University of Michigan (where I was in the second cohort of students to go through U of M's Film and Video Studies Program), and spent a year in Freiburg, Germany. After graduation, I lived in Washington, DC for a year, then followed my wife Julie to Bloomington where she attended law school. After a summer in New York, we both returned to DC, moved to the Alexandria suburbs, and then moved to the outskirts of Chicago where I am now. One thing has been a constant through all that-I love movies. I eat them. It was a weird confluence of science fiction/horror and slapstick comedy that first commanded my heart. As a little kid I thrilled to Godzilla and Hammer horror, in revival screenings at Raleigh's Rialto and similar theaters, while watching Batman and Doctor Who on TV. At the same time I was obsessed with the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Three Stooges. By the time I was twenty-five I'd already seen THE GENERAL in five different theaters in five different cities. My career path has been as peripatetic as my lifestyle. I once aspired to making movies of my own and one of my short films was released on DVD, even though I was the one who published it, so maybe that doesn't count. I started writing about movies in 1997 with the publication of A CRITICAL HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY OF TOHO'S GODZILLA SERIES, a book that won me a lot of attention and acclaim but which I eventually grew to dislike. I rewrote it, and had the completely revamped text published under the same title as if it were just a second edition. Joke's on you! I've also written about J-Horror and Dr. Mabuse, while contributing essays on subjects such as Fantomas, French horror and Edgar Ulmer to various anthologies. From time to time I record audio commentaries as well. Now I blog.
Posts by David Kalat

In the mid-sixties, United Productions of America’s Henry Saperstein went shopping for high quality monster movies for North American distribution. Toho Studios shared with Hammer Studios in England the reputation of producing a steady supply of monster movies with a consistent level of quality. Choosing to deal with Toho rather than Hammer, Saperstein eventually won […]

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Writing about Hammer horror is always a bit intimidating, because there are other Morlocks with greater knowledge and authority on the subject (RHS, I’m looking at you!) so I generally feel my time is better spent in my own niche (like slapstick or screwball comedy). But with Monday’s Hammerathon coming up I can’t help myself. So […]

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Back when I started my endless ramblings about the transition from silent slapstick to screwball comedies, I led by singling out Harry Langdon’s Tramp, Tramp, Tramp as a fulcrum point where screwball becomes imperative. So it’s time to come back to Harry Langdon, and indulgently celebrate what made him so gloriously awesome, even if his style […]

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For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at romantic comedies of the 1930s/40s, specifically the talented filmmakers and (mostly female) comedians whose careers flourished with the transition from slapstick to screwball. But in this story there are some gaps—potholes in history where was supposed to be, for some reason, wasn’t. Consider poor Jimmy Parrott, […]

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If you have patience for yet one more Cinderella story, I’ve got a 1935 romantic comedy with an interesting behind-the-scenes twist. This week’s Cinderella is Alice Adams, a Katharine Hepburn vehicle by ex-Laurel & Hardy cameraman George Stevens, adapted from a Booth Tarkington novel of the same name. It garnered Academy Award nominations for both […]

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“One of the dullest towns in America is the dreary community of Hotchkiss Falls in the mid-Hudson Valley. The odds are 1000 to 1 against our finding anyone there with an interesting story. However that’s where we are, so let’s take a look around.” Screwball comedies generally came in one of two flavors. The Heiress […]

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Gregory La Cava’s 1939 comedy Fifth Avenue Girl is an excellent example of the 1930s style of romantic comedies, and possibly my favorite Ginger Rogers film of all. It is also a decidedly deviant 1930s romantic comedy that breaks more rules than it follows, and uses Ginger Roger’s natural downtrodden deadpan persona to tamp down […]

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Ruggles of Red Gap is an odd duck. It is a crucial turning point into the formative genre of screwball comedy, but it isn’t easily recognizable as a romantic comedy nor is it especially female driven. It was Charles Laughton’s favorite screen role, but he’s not known for comedy, and his performance here consists substantially […]

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Up above, that’s a picture of the back of Joan Crawford’s head. You might be wondering why I think that’s worth looking at, or how I expect to squeeze 1500 words out of it. I happen to think this is a potent and symbolic moment in the history of American screen comedy. Longtime readers are […]

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When I was a kid, Ted Turner’s Superstation WTBS ran this thing practically every week. It became as comforting as an old blanket, as familiar as my own skin. Eventually, as an adult, I revisited the world of Japanese giant monster movies. I wrote a couple of books, gave some lectures, recorded some audio commentaries, […]

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