Slapstick

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Things may be a little quieter from The Bioscope for the next few days, as I’ve broken a bone in my thumb, and typing has become rather slow process.

So, to mark my falling over and crashing into a glass-fronted picture, from which I have learned that pratfalls hurt in real life, here’s a short item on slapstick.

First of all, a slapstick was a jointed piece of wood used in harlequinades and minstrel acts to make a slapping noise. If you are in a UK educational institution or library, you can see one in use in an 1899 film of seaside entertainers E. Williams and his Merry Men at Rhyl, filmed by Arthur Cheetham and available from Screenonline.

For slapstick comedians themselves, start off with David B. Pearson’s excellent Silent-Movies.org site, which incorporates several web sites on silent comedy stars, one of which is Slapstick. This has MP4 movie files of Charlies Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand, Harry Langdon, and Max Linder. They are clips, not complete films, but they capture the artistry of falling with style perfectly.

Or look further at the individuals by visiting www.busterkeaton.com, Arbucklemania, Harold Lloyd, Madcap Mabel, The Harry Langdon Society or Chaplin.

On the latter, check out the Chapliniana web site, about the festival of all things Chaplin which is currently running in Bologna. The site looks great, but is only in Italian. Or check out the very helpful Charlie Chaplin UK DVD and Video Guide.

Or, if you are in the US, check out Kino range of slapstick DVDs including the encyclopedic Slaptick Symposium DVD collection – 1264 minutes of Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Charley Chase and Harold Lloyd.

And, of course, between 19-22 July, at Arlington, Virginia, there’s the Slapsticon festival, with Laurel and Hardy, Harry Langdon, Harold Lloyd Larry Semon, Mabel Normand, Leon Errol, Ford Sterling, Fatty Arbuckle, Billy Bevan, Monty Banks, Max Davidson, Charley Chase, Lupino Lane, Ben Turpin, Wallace Beery…

And, thinking laterally about these things, here’s some recipes for making custard pie.

Why not read Simon Louvish’s, Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett, about the cinema’s prime producer of comic mayhem.

Finally, plenty of people visit this site loking for dates of Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns shows this autumn, and the main post on this is updated as I find new tour dates. Merton’s book, Silent Comedy, will be published in October.

Anyone spot the self-referential gag in the picture?

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